State Receives 21 Applications For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Mar 9, 2018

Iowa has received 21 applications for five licenses to distribute medical marijuana. Potential sites for the dispensaries span the state from Sioux City to Davenport. 

A medical marijuana tincture.
Credit Vaping360 via flickr creative commons /

Seven companies are competing for the available licenses. Most of the applicants want to distribute from Davenport, Sioux City, Council Bluffs or Des Moines. But Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are also on the list, as well as Cedar Falls, Coralville, Urbandale and Windsor Heights.

It’s now up to the state Department of Public Health to review the plans based on a number of factors. Sarah Reisetter is a deputy director with the agency.

“We have asked them to explain in narrative format what their business overview and plan looks like, how they’re going to operate their dispensary, how they plan to secure their facility,” Reisseter said.

The department will also look at the companies' marketing plans, strategies for possible recalls and their hiring processes.

But even with 21 applications, the turnout isn’t quite what the department expected.

“The number is lower than how many people indicated they were interested in applying for a license. So we had 71 locations signaled earlier, and then we ended up with 21 applications. So significantly less than we thought,” Reisseter said.

Advocates had worried the state’s low potency rules might keep companies away. Under current law, the drugs can't be more than three percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. And only Iowans with approved medical conditions will be able to use medical marijuana. To date, the drug is limited to patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or HIV, Crohn's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), any terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year, Parkinson's disease, or untreatable pain.

State regulations also limit the forms of medical marijuana that patients can use, namely outlawing edible or smokable forms. Reisseter outlines the current approved forms.

"Oral forms, which would be your oral solutions, maybe soft gels or capsules; a topical form which would be cream or ointment; an inhalable form, which would be limited to nebulizable forms at this particular point in time, and then a suppository form," Reisseter said.

The department plans to hand out the licenses by April 1st of this year. Distribution to Iowans with approved medical conditions should start by this December. Patients and primary caregivers can apply for a state-issued registration card on the Department of Public Health website.