DES MOINES — Senators began working Wednesday on an expanded medical marijuana measure that would allow making and dispensing cannabis products in Iowa for adults to legally possesses and administer under a doctor’s direction to treat up to 18 “debilitating” medical conditions.
But early indications from majority Republicans in the House were that Senate File 506 had little chance of passing there as written.
Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he hoped the Senate had a framework the House could accept to replace the existing but limited cannabis oil law.
“We are interested in making law,” Schneider told a subcommittee that heard appeals from Iowans seeking cannabis-based options for themselves or family members. “This is not just a ‘statement’ bill. This is something that we would like to get through the House and down to the governor’s desk.”
The bill passed the subcommittee 3-0 and the Senate Appropriations Committee 19-1 and needed one more committee’s approval to be ready for Senate floor debate.
Under provisions of SSB 1190, Iowa would license up to four manufacturers to “possess, cultivate, transport or supply medical cannabis” by July 2, 2018, so up to 12 licensed dispensaries could begin distribution to qualified adult Iowans by July 16, 2018.
Patients or primary caregivers 18 or older who are permanent Iowa residents and who have been certified by a health care practitioner would be eligible to receive registration cards to procure medical cannabis to cope with medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, AIDS or HIV, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder or Tourette’s syndrome.
A medical advisory board also would be in place by Aug. 15 to oversee the program and consider adding illnesses.
Reps. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, and Jared Klein, R-Keota, expressed concern the Senate bill did not have a limit of 3 percent or less THC content in the medical cannabis as current law requires, and provided for the manufacture of medical marijuana in resin form. The bill does bar the production in edible form and prohibits smoking as an option.
“I think the chance of that passing is very, very, very nil at least in the House,” said Baudler. “Some time three days after hell freezes over, that bill will pass in the House.”
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, called the Senate bill “pretty broad” and not “exactly what we had anticipated, perhaps” when they discussed the legislation conceptually.
Upmeyer said she was hopeful the Legislature would at least lift the July 1 sunset on Iowa’s current law and make the pot-based epilepsy drug Epidiolex available if it gets federal approval.
The Senate measure includes a reciprocity arrangement whereby qualified Iowa patients would not be prosecuted for possessing medical cannabis from Minnesota, but the arrangement was opposed by some speakers who worried it might trigger a federal crackdown over interstate commerce.
Iowa’s 2014 law allows licensed neurologists to certify patients with intractable epilepsy to use cannabidiol products with up to 3 percent THC. The law does not allow other physicians to write qualifying recommendations nor does it let patients with any other conditions to obtain cannabidiol products.
Karrie Anderson, a Grimes resident who has multiple sclerosis, thanked lawmakers for giving Iowans living with chronic diseases a “flicker of hope” they will have more options.