Lawmakers in Iowa have been working tirelessly over this legislative session to get a new medical marijuana law put into place before the 2014 law becomes ineffective this July. After a lot of back and forth, House File 524 – which Governor Branstad just signed into law – will expand the use of cannabis oil for a number of new conditions and even create a means for patients to legally obtain the medicine within the state.
While there were several versions of a medical marijuana bill that were introduced to legislature, the bill that has finally been passed to replace the law that was set to expire this summer will expand access to cannabis oil, or CBD oil, with no more than 3% THC. Previously the only patients that were allowed to possess CBD oil were those with epilepsy, but the law now includes those with cancer, AIDS/HIV, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease and more.
“This is a great next step in the process of making medical cannabis available for many folks here in Iowa who need access to it as a medical treatment,” said Theresa Harms, a lobbyist representing the Epilepsy Foundation and the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Though some lawmakers had hoped for it, the new law does not allow for medical marijuana products with more than 3% THC. This is unfortunate since many conditions listed have been found to benefit greatly from THC, but access to CBD oil made from medical marijuana with traces of THC is still a start. Of course, this is not something that has gone unnoticed – and it is probably something that will be addressed in the future of the medical marijuana program in the state.
“I think the THC cap is very prohibitive,” Gaer said. “People with cancer and chronic pain, anti-inflammatory (needs), colitis, Crohn’s, those people all need more than 3 percent THC. So that’s one of the major problems with the bill right there.”
The biggest improvement that this law has over the one that it replaced is the fact that it does allow for two cultivation facilities to be licensed by the state to grow the high CBD cannabis that will be used to make the oil sold to patients through state licensed dispensaries. This is an important step that many states with CBD only laws overlook, leaving patients with the right to medicate with the oil but no way to access it. If all goes well, Iowa could see dispensaries open to sell cannabis oil to patients by December of 2018.
In the meantime, the state is working on a deal with neighboring Minnesota that would allow patients with ID cards from Iowa to purchase cannabis oil in that state until it is available locally. This should go into effect rather soon, seeing as the new law went into effect immediately, giving thousands the option to look into cannabis oil as an alternative to more traditional medications. Another addition of this law is a Cannabidiol Advisory Board, which would recommend changes to the law as things progress.
While this law is by no means perfect it is certainly a big step ahead of where the state was with their previous law. It actually turned out that having a sunset date on the original cannabidiol law was a good thing because it ensured that lawmakers would work hard to find a way to improve on that legislation in the future. Though there is still room for improvement, the fact that lawmakers made this a priority and not only ensured those already using CBD were still protected, but also improved the situation for them and thousands more is definitely a start.