© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Doctors Still Hesitant to Certify Iowa Patients for New Medical Cannabis Program

MedPharm's Aliviar branded medical cannabis products were on display at the MedPharm manufacturing facility in Des Moines
Katarina Sostaric
IPR file

The company that runs two of Iowa’s medical cannabis dispensaries is calling their first weekend of sales an “absolute success.”

Iowa’s only medical marijuana manufacturer MedPharm Iowa reports it served about 120 patients at its Windsor Heights dispensary in suburban Des Moines and at least 15 in Sioux City over the weekend.

MedPharm’s General Manager Lucas Nelson was at MedPharm’s Windsor Heights dispensary. He said opening day was “a whirlwind of emotions.”

“It was truly incredible to see the look on peoples’ faces, to hear some of their stories that this was finally officially available for them,” Nelson said. “I can’t even put into words, I think, just the overall happiness that people felt.

Many patients came to MedPharm with stories of how thier medical conditions affect their quality of life.

“And now they have this new medicine that can change their lives for the better,” he said. “In a way a lot of them were excited about these moments finally giving them a chance to take their life back.”

But he says MedPharm still has more work to do, like educating doctors about how the state’s medical cannabidiol program works. Of the 6,000 to 7,000 doctors in the state, only 200 to 300 have so far certified a patient as having a medical condition eligible for the program, like untreatable pain, cancer or seizures.

"Too many members of the medical community still believe that this is illegal for them. [They think] they can’t be having these conversations, and they certainly can’t be prescribing medical cannabis. And while they cannot prescribe medical cannabis - that  fact is true - that’s not what they’re required to do here in Iowa," says Nelson.  

Nelson said MedPharm would also like to see more approved medical conditions on the program’s list.

During this River to River conversation, Nelson talks with host Ben Kieffer. 

Sally Gaer, a mother and advocate, and Captain Mike McKelvey, who is on the state's cannabidiol advisory board, also join the conversation. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River