Just hours before adjourning for the year, Iowa’s House of Representatives voted to pass House FIle 524, a piece of legislation that, if signed by the governor, would expand the state’s extremely limited medical marijuana program and bring cannabis cultivation to Iowa.
According to the Des Moines Register, the bill wasn’t unveiled to the Iowa House until 3 a.m. Saturday morning, and it passed State Senate approval by 7 a.m. the same day. The new legislation is just one of many attempts from Iowa lawmakers to expand the state’s floundering medical marijuana program.
"There are many, many citizens, literally thousands of citizens, that could benefit from the use of this medication," Democratic Representative and trained pharmacist John Forbes said. "They’ll have access now to a treatment for debilitating diseases that are not very well treated sometimes with conventional medicine."
If signed by Governor Terry Branstad, the new legislation would allow the Iowa Department of Public Health to permit and license up to two manufacturers and up to five distributors for the low-THC high-CBD cannabis oil that was legalized to treat epilepsy by Iowa legislators in 2014.
House FIle 524, which passed in the State Senate by a vote of 45-5, would also add cancer, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, AIDS, and a handful of other medical conditions to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program.
Currently, only Iowans with epilepsy are allowed to possess or use CBD oil, but without manufacturers in the state, and with transport across state lines still federally illegal, even qualifying patients have been locked out of the limited system.
If approved, the new legislation would also create a Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board that would be responsible for adding or removing qualifying conditions in the future and, if found necessary, adjusting Iowa’s 3% THC limit.
The bill found support from Republicans on the way to the governor’s desk, but some Democratic legislators still don’t believe House FIle 524 would do enough to help Iowans in need.
“I am afraid it will provide a lot of false hope for the thousands of suffering Iowans who have petitioned us and really begged us,” Senator Joe Bolkcom said. “For sick Iowans, you won’t get much relief unless you get relief from hollow Republican talking points.”
So while it might not be the last step in Iowa’s push for cannabis access, the expanded program would at least allow some Iowans the relief provided by CBD.
“It’s not perfect," Senator Charles Schneider admitted. "But it is a good start, and a fitting way to end this legislative session."