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Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Sent To Iowa Governor

marijuana plants
Katarina Sostaric
IPR file
Cannabis plants at MedPharm Iowa in Des Moines.

In the final hours of the legislative session Saturday, the Iowa Senate sent a bill to the governor that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program.

The bill allows for more potent medical marijuana products at the state’s five dispensaries. It would remove the 3 percent cap on THC—the chemical that makes people feel high—and replace it with a per-person limit of 25 grams in 90 days.

One exception to the limit is a waiver available to terminally ill people with a life expectancy of less than one year.

Sen. Tom Greene, R-Burlington, had tears in his eyes as he expressed his support for the change.

“I know many patients who need this medication,” Greene said. “This is a small step, but we need to keep the ball rolling. Reclassification of this will make leaps and bounds and just really provide that care for those Iowans.”

A few other senators also said they think the federal government should act on medical marijuana so proper use of the drug can be determined through medical research.

The bill also expands what kinds of health care providers can recommend patients for a medical marijuana card by including physician assistants and nurse practitioners. And it removes a ban on people with certain criminal charges.

Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, said this allows the state to do more for Iowans in a controlled manner.

“We’re not just putting it out there willy-nilly and allowing everybody in Iowa to have access to this. You have to clear the hoops to get to this drug,” Taylor said. “And the people of Iowa need it. And they expect us to get it to them.”

The state’s first medical marijuana manufacturer has said just because this allows them to put a lot more THC in the creams, pills and oils they produce, doesn’t mean they will. They say their first priority would be to put less filler in products to make them more economical for patients.

Iowa’s medical marijuana program would still be limited to patients who qualify based on a list of specific medical conditions.

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 40 to 7. The senators who voted against the bill did not speak about their opposition during the debate.

The bill goes to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature, though it’s not clear if she supports the policy.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter