Iowa lawmakers work to salvage medical cannabis program update

By: - February 11, 2020 12:38 pm

A medical marjuana bill bottle. (Photo by Getty Images)

State lawmakers on Tuesday began the work of trying to salvage an update to Iowa’s medical cannabidiol program after a veto last year from Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The fighting issue in House Study Bill 653, and the one that led to the governor’s veto, was the cap on THC. That’s the psychoactive compound in cannabis that is also attributed to positive health effects in some patients.

Iowa’s current medical cannabidiol program, launched in December 2018, allows no more than 3% THC in the cannabis-derived medication. CBD oil is available for a specific list of medical conditions, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s. Last year, the House and Senate voted to allow a THC limit of up to 25 grams over 90 days.

Reynolds said that limit was too high, citing the state’s medical cannabidiol board’s recommendation of 4.5 grams of TCH over 90 days.  That’s the limit in the legislation now being considered in the Iowa House.

But Rep. John Forbes, R-Urbandale, a pharmacist, said Tuesday during a subcommittee meeting that he can’t support legislation providing such a low THC limit. He said he has patients who are currently using as much as 50 milligrams of THC a day to control pain as a substitute for addictive opioid medication.

One patient told him if this bill passes, she might have to go back on opioids, he said.

“I have a really hard time supporting a bill that’s going to require those patients to reduce their daily dose of THC,” Forbes said.  “… I don’t know how we as legislators can legislate this type of medical care when we have patients that are now doing very well. And just professionally as a pharmacist, I cannot do that to my patients.”

He noted that Illinois’ legalization of recreational marijuana allows people to buy “whatever they want,” just across the state border.

Lawmakers on the subcommittee expressed frustration with the federal government’s inaction on the issue of medical cannabis. “We all pretty well recognize around here that we are around this table because of an absolute failure of the federal government to be responsive to this issue,” Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, subcommittee chairman, said. “But we do have a responsibility to our constituents to address this, to provide relief but also to cause no harm.”

Klein said lawmakers would continue to work on the bill, including the THC limits, as it moves to the House Public Safety Committee for more consideration.

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