The mayor of Cedar Rapids says his city is ready to capitalize on the state’s medical marijuana industry. That's after state officials awarded a license to the company Iowa Relief, LLC to build a cannabis manufacturing center in the city.
The state Department of Public Health has awarded the second of two approved manufacturing permits to Iowa Relief, which plans to build the facility at 1420 26th Avenue Court SW in Cedar Rapids.
Mayor Brad Hart said having a production center in town will make Cedar Rapids more attractive to other businesses in the industry.
“I think it’s very possible that there’ll be an expansion for the use of medical marijuana in Iowa and potentially recreational use. So this kind of gets us in on the ground floor,” Hart said.
According to Iowa Relief's application for the license, the company may hire eight full-time employees in its first year of business, and up to 25 employees within three years. The corporation's parent company has been affiliated with marijuana production or distrubution operations in 13 other states, including California, New York, Florida, Oregon and Illinois. The company highlighted its multi-state operations in its license application.
"Iowa Relief has access to a great deal of accumulated expertise in the medical cannabis industry. This expertise covers every aspect of the supply chain, from growing and harvesting, to processing and extraction, to sales, marketing, and security," the application reads.
Some patients and industry advocates want Iowa lawmakers to loosen restrictions on who can use and produce the drug. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states have "comprehensive" medical marijuana programs, while 16 have "low THC" programs, including Iowa.
Currently, state law limits access to patients with cancer, MS, seizures, AIDS or HIV, Crohn's disease, ALS, Parkinson's disease, untreatable pain or terminal diseases. Production is limited to two manufacturers and five dispensaries.
The state's second-most populous city was previously passed over for one of the dispensary licenses. Iowa public health officials instead awarded the permits to companies opening up shop in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights, as well as Waterloo and Davenport.
At the time, a spokesperson for the department said regulators wanted to locate the sites across the state to shorten drive times for Iowans. But Hart said he still thinks Cedar Rapids is a prime location for a dispensary.
"Probably more people come to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City for medical care than anywhere else in the state," Hart said. "And to not have a dispensary license in our area, I still don't quite understand."
Changes to the state's law did not make it through the 2018 Legislative session.
Under the current framework, qualified patients and their caregivers should be able to fill their prescriptions by this December.