Five Iowa cities could soon have medical marijuana dispensaries after the state picked its preferred distributors Tuesday. Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Waterloo, Davenport and the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights are each slated to get a medical marijuana dispensary, if the companies accept the licenses by 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28.
Health officials chose the businesses Have A Heart Compassion Care, Iowa Cannabis Company and MedPharm Iowa out of 21 total applications. The companies were picked in part because of their proposed locations. Iowa Public Health Department Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter says the state hopes to provide access to as many patients as it can.
“We received applications on the western side of the state from Sioux City and Council Bluffs. So that really seemed like it was kind of a no-brainer. Same thing with the city of Des Moines and Davenport," Reisetter said. "And when we were analyzing that fifth license and we looked at the map, it became very apparent that Waterloo was important in terms of geographical representation."
The location is key because patients or approved caregivers will have to physically go to the dispensaries in order to get prescriptions filled.
Reisetter says state law prohibits the department from releasing more information about the companies' applications and business plans until after the licenses are awarded. But while the state has selected its preferred providers, she says the vetting process isn’t over yet.
“The next thing that will happen is they will go through a background investigation through our department of public safety," Reisetter said. "And provided that the background investigation is successfully completed, they would start building out their dispensary.”
State law requires the businesses to begin filling prescriptions for Iowans with approved conditions by this December. Currently, certain patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or HIV, Crohn's disease, ALS, Parkinson's disease, untreatable pain, or other terminal illnesses with limited life expectancies can be eligible for medical marijuana.