A Cedar Rapids official wants Iowa’s medical marijuana law expanded. The statement comes after the state’s second largest city was passed over for a dispensary.
Cedar Rapids City Council member Dale Todd says the state is undercutting patients in eastern Iowa. On Tuesday officials at the state Department of Public Health awarded the five available distribution licenses to businesses in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Windsor Heights, Waterloo and Davenport, with a goal of geographical diversity. But Todd says population should have been a greater factor.
“By not locating these dispensaries in places where there’s market share and a population is going to make it tough for these dispensaries to succeed," Todd said. "The worst part is it’s going to make it challenging for some of the patients who need this medication.”
The Cedar Rapids councilor's son has epilepsy, which could make him eligible for a prescription.
Todd says qualifying patients, who may be suffering from symptoms associated with cancer, AIDS or HIV, ALS, Parkinson's disease or other conditions, can face a slate of physical and logistical challenges. He says the estimated one hour trip from Cedar Rapids to Waterloo, the site of the closest proposed dispensary, could be a barrier to access for some.
"Many of these patients have tough, challenging, complex medical conditions. And access to many things is complicated for them," Todd said. "Some don't have drivers's licenses. Some don't have relatives or a safety net that can hop in a car and make this road trip."
Some patients in the northwestern part of the state could face even longer travel times. Residents in Fort Dodge or Algona would have to drive between an hour and forty minutes to two hours to get to the nearest dispensary.
While he says the five approved distribution centers is a start, Todd hopes to see even greater access to medical marijuana in the state.
“One of the options and one that we would encourage would be to ask the Iowa Legislature to evaluate this law and hopefully open up some other locations based on population and need and access,” Todd said.
Under state law, the dispensaries should be up and running and filling Iowans' prescriptions by this December.