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House Panel Advances Medical Cannabis Bill; THC Limit Remains Controversial

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

A bill that advanced Tuesday in the Iowa House of Representatives would expand some parts of Iowa’s medical cannabis program, but disagreement remains about the amount of THC, the chemical that can make cannabis users high, patients should be allowed to purchase.
Last year, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed a bipartisan medical cannabis bill, citing concerns from a state advisory board that it would allow patients to have too much THC.

There is currently no legal limit on how much THC Iowans can purchase over a period of time. Iowa’s only limit on THC exists for individual products, capping THC content at 3 percent.

The bill that advanced Tuesday would allow for more potent cannabis products, but it would limit patients to 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days, with some exceptions.

That proposal came directly from the medical cannabis advisory board. Some board members are concerned that larger amounts of THC will harm patients.

“Absolutely going to be very closely tied with the board because I know that’s where the governor is,” said Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota. “We know that 25 [grams] is too high. We know that 4.5 [grams] may be too low for some people. So we’ll see if there’s middle ground to be found.”

The bill vetoed by Reynolds in 2019 would have allowed patients to buy 25 grams of THC over 90 days.

Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, said he cannot support the bill that limits THC to 4.5 grams over 90 days because some of his pharmacy patients are already taking more. Some are replacing opioids with medical cannabis to treat chronic pain.

“And it’s having positive impacts on people’s quality of life,” Forbes said. “And how we can pull back and do this to patients here in the state of Iowa is very disconcerting to me as a legislator and a pharmacist.” 

Other aspects of the bill have broad support.

It would allow physician assistants, podiatrists and nurse practitioners to certify patients for the medical cannabis program. The bill would also have the Iowa Department of Public Health issue medical cannabis cards instead of the Department of Transportation, streamlining the process for patients.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter