Lawmakers will reconsider medical marijuana expansion

Governor vetoed increase in THC limits last year

A worker touches plants at a cannabis greenhouse on March 7, 2011. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Iowa leaders have committed to re-examining the state’s medical marijuana program after a measure to expand it was vetoed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last year.

The issue is passing a measure that is comfortable for the House, Senate and governor’s office amid looming competition from Illinois’ recreational marijuana program that launched Jan. 1.

Iowa’s medical cannabidiol program allows registered patients with conditions like cancer, seizures and Parkinson’s disease to purchase cannabidiol, better known as CBD oil, at one of the state’s five licensed dispensaries, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. 

CBD, a derivative of marijuana, is believed to help with ailments, like chronic pain. 

Under Iowa law, CBD products at licensed dispensaries must have no more than 3% THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes people feel high. 

But the current program, which started December 2018, has been scrutinized by some lawmakers and patients who want to raise the THC cap and ease patient access to the product, according to Iowa Public Radio.

A measure based by both the House and Senate in 2019 would have expanded the program. However, it was vetoed by the governor after she said the proposed THC limit was not strict enough. She cited recommendations by the governor-appointed medical cannabidiol advisory, which suggests a limit of 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days, according to Iowa Public Radio.

For the 2020 legislative session, Reynolds said she’s open to working with lawmakers and the medical board on expanding the program. She did not specify what level of THC she would be comfortable legalizing. Reynolds and legislative leaders spoke Tuesday during a forum at the Capitol sponsored by the Associated Press.

Iowa House Speaker-select Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said he was open to expediting an expansion in the wake of growing competition for medical marijuana, but he said he does not feel pressured to compete with out-of-state programs.

“We should not be basing any decisions that we do, based on anything Illinois may or may not be doing,” Grassley said.

Linh Ta
Reporter Linh Ta comes to Iowa Capital Dispatch from the Des Moines Register, where she covered trending news, public safety and the suburbs. Most recently, she has covered retail business and followed both national and local trends to provide insight about the issues that matter the most to Iowans. Beyond traditional journalism, Ta has worked as a speech coach with the Des Moines Storytellers Project with the goal of sharing the diverse perspectives of Iowans from all walks of life. She is the 2019 winner of the Young Iowa Journalist Award and the winner of an Iowa Broadcast News Award. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @linhmaita.

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