Currently, Iowa’s medical marijuana program is very limited; Iowans are permitted to possess small amounts of cannabis oil for treating intractable epilepsy. However, that program appears useless since another law makes it illegal to manufacture and distribute the cannabis oil throughout the state. Furthermore, federal law prohibits the transportation of the oil across state lines. The law was established in 2014 and is expected to end in July of 2017 with nothing currently established to replace it. However, legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, are interested in having some form of medical marijuana program in the state, be it an extension of the one set to expire in a few months or a completely different program. So far, legislators have introduced a version of a medical marijuana bill, House Study Bill 132. It seeks to expand Iowa’s medical cannabis program in an attempt to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program but have stalled.
Current Law: Medical Cannabidiol Act
In May of 2014, Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the Medical Cannabidiol Act. The law permits Iowans to possess up to 32 cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive oil derived from cannabis plants, but requires that a neurologist provides a written recommendation for the oil for the treatment of intractable epilepsy in a child if no other alternative treatment option exist. The law establishes some of the following conditions for compliance:
- Patient is permanent resident of Iowa
- Six months treatment for intractable epilepsy by a neurologist
- Alternative treatment options by neurologist has failed to alleviate symptoms
- Neurologist reasonably determines and recommends the use of CBD
- CBD registration card
As though it is a bad joke, patients cannot actually get CBD oil in the state. There are no provisions that allow parents to have access to the treatment. There is a need to create a practical medical marijuana program that can address the needs of families with children suffering from epilepsy. Democrat Senator Jack Hatch back in 2014 expressed his feeling about the CBD oil and the law he voted for stating, “As good as it was, it’s impossible to implement…We need to grow it here, dispense it here, and regulate it here.” Without access, the Medical Cannabidiol Act is just for show.
House Study Bill 132
A strong push is being made to establish a comprehensive statewide medical marijuana bill as several proposals are presented by lawmakers. Most notably, House Study Bill 132 has advanced in the State House after being filed by led by the Public Safety Committee Chair Rep. Clel Baudler. Another representative John Forbes, a Democrat, expressed his elation, stating, “I am happy to see the bill is including production, distribution, and dispensing of cannabis here in the state of Iowa.” The new bill proposes providing patients access via an in-state licensed cultivation, processing, and dispensing system that is needed for the previous law to be properly implemented, and provide families with the medical help they desperately need. The bill proposes a number of measures, including:
- Allows the department to grow, cultivate, harvest, and transport cannabis
- Healthcare practitioners may provide written recommendation of CBD for medical use
- Cannabidiol(CBD) to treat or alleviate the symptoms of debilitating medical condition, not just seizure conditions, if no other satisfactory alternative treatment option sexist
- A cannabidiol registration card for users
These are the top guidelines that applies to users that would be implemented had the bill become law.
The Bill’s sponsor Representative Baudler pulled the Bill from the floor because he could not get enough Republican support. “At this time, if it isn’t dead, it sure as hell is shot through with holes,” he expressed to reporters. The least Iowans can do is hope that expiration date will be lifted so that those patients using CBD oil to treat epilepsy can continue to do so.
Currently, the fate of Iowa’s medical marijuana program is largely unknown. No one knows if it will survive or if a giant step will be taken backwards if the program is allowed to expire in a few months. The medical marijuana program that exists today in Iowa is very limited and provides no access to obtain CBD oil. Furthermore, efforts to expand the program that would remedy this glaring problem seemed to have hit a wall. As is typical with medical marijuana bills, fierce opposition seems to accompany just about every bill before it is passed. Iowan’s must continue the fight if they want meaningful medical marijuana laws.