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Board Recommends Allowing Iowans With PTSD To Qualify For Medical Cannabis

marijuana plants
Katarina Sostaric
IPR file
Cannabis plants at MedPharm Iowa, one of the state's two medical cannabis manufacturers.

A state board voted Friday to recommend allowing patients with post-traumatic stress disorder to qualify for Iowa’s medical cannabis program, a recommendation that now goes to the Iowa Board of Medicine for final consideration.

Four board members, who are also medical professionals, approved this after stating there is not enough scientific evidence supporting use of cannabis to treat PTSD.

Board member Dr. Lonny Miller said it will be several years before strong scientific conclusions can be drawn about cannabis as a medical treatment.

“And again there are risks to cannabis, and the reports discuss that,” Miller said. “Now, the risks of untreated PTSD are numerous as well. At the very least, they live a miserable existence. At the very worst, they die.”

Miller said his friend, who had PTSD, committed suicide.

Two board members voted against approving PTSD as a qualifying condition.

“I would just like to point out that there are two randomized controlled studies that are underway…and until those studies come out, the VA and the WHO have both advised against the use of cannabis for PTSD,” board member Dr. Jacqueline Stoken said.

Several members of the public testified in favor of allowing medical cannabis for PTSD. One testified against, warning the board about potential health and safety risks.

The board also approved intellectual disabilities with aggression or self-injury as a qualifying condition. It rejected opioid use disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, about a dozen conditions can qualify Iowa patients for the state’s medical cannabis program. Several more came before the board this year, and most were rejected.

The board also reiterated Friday they think lawmakers should remove the 3 percent cap on THC in Iowa’s medical cannabis products. THC is the chemical that makes cannabis users high.

Instead, the board recommends allowing patients to obtain up to 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days, with an exception for patients diagnosed with terminal illness.

“THC has the potential for causing harm, and that’s where the danger begins to come in,” said Stephen Richards, a board member and pharmacist. “So alright, if we’re going to do it, let’s be careful. And let’s keep this number at what appears to be a probably reasonable level.”

The legislature passed a bipartisan bill in the spring that would’ve allowed for 25 grams of THC over 90 days. Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed it, saying she thought it went too far.

Richards said there is not data to support allowing up to 25 grams of THC over 90 days. But the board recommends allowing medical practitioners to certify their patients for more than 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days, if the patient checks in with their doctor often enough.

Two Democratic lawmakers at the meeting said they don’t want a 4.5 gram limit.

“I don’t support that,” said Sen. Claire Celsi, D-Des Moines. “I think it’s too low, as proven by our pharmacist members both in the House and Senate. Some people need much more than that.”

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter