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Senate on Medical Marijuana: Cover More Patients with Stronger Drug

Medical Marijuana Sign

A stronger form of medical marijuana would become available in Iowa for a larger number of patients under a bill that advanced in the Iowa Senate today.  

It’s the second year in a row that the Senate has tried to pass a more expansive medical marijuana law than the one Gov. Branstad signed last year.   

"It's important to have other alternative methods to treat pain." -Sen. Jeff Edler

Under the new bill, a cap on the active ingredient THC would be lifted, and a patient with any condition could acquire the drug if a doctor calls it beneficial.    The current law limits THC to 3 percent, and limits treatment to nine medical conditions.

Officials with MedPharm, the company with the sole license for manufacturing medical marijuana in Iowa, have said that under the current restrictions, not enough patients would come forward to make the program viable.

“With that THC cap in place at 3 percent as it is, it's going to be extremely difficult for Med Pharm to be able to treat the patients the legislature has asked us to treat especially those with severe and chronic pain,” MedPharm lobbyist Dane Schumann told the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

An activist with an anti-drug organization opposed the bill.

"We'll be back in January." -House Speaker Linda Upmeyer

“The THC limit at this point is one of the most dangerous precedents available in legislation with marijuana,”said Peter Komendowski with the Partnership for a Drug Free Iowa.   “It is the open door, the Trojan horse, that establishes all the basis for legalizing marijuana use.”

Current  law says a state board made up of medical professionals is authorized to expand the law, not the legislature.  

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer says that provision was the main reason why the Republican-controlled House agreed to authorize medical marijuana at all.

“My caucus feels very strongly about the advisory board,” Upmeyer said.  “And so to disregard that and throw it all overboard they would feel that was a disingenuous move.”  

Last year’s more expansive medical marijuana bill passed the Senate by a vote of 45 to 5 but died in the House.  Upmeyer says the House is not likely to take up this year’s bill.  

“We’ll be back in January,” Upmeyer said.   “Hopefully we’ll have additional recommendations.”

The Senate Ways and Means committee approved this year’s bill Monday by a vote of 11 to 3.     

“It’s important to have other alternative methods to treat pain as we look at the opioid crackdown,” said the bill’s manager, Sen. Jeff Edler (R-State Center).