The Iowa House has passed a bill that would overhaul the state’s medical marijuana program and allow more potent products to be sold.
The bill would add more qualifying conditions, allow more doctors to recommend patients for the program and revamp the current system of THC limits. The House voted 52-46 in favour of approving it today, and it now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Last year, lawmakers managed to get a marijuana expansion bill on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk, but she vetoed it. She said she would be comfortable with signing the new bill, but Iowa Democrats believe it would represent a backwards step for the state.
Under the current framework, patients can only receive marijuana with a maximum THC content of 3%. The new bill would remove that cap and allow more potent cannabis products to be distributed to patients, but there is a catch.
The proposed legislation would impose a limit of 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day basis. Rep. Mary Gaskill, a Democrat from Ottumwa, said that would not be enough to meet the needs of many patients, including her own daughter.
Republican lawmakers that introduced the bill said the limit is based on recommendations from the state board that oversees the program. Rep. Jarad Klein, who was tasked with leading the debate in the House, added that doctors can recommend more than 4.5 grams are prescribed if they determine that amount is insufficient to treat the patient’s condition, or if the patient is terminally ill.
Democrat lawmakers said they hope to negotiate a higher limit per patient before the bill ends up on Reynolds’ desk. Rep. John Forbes is also a pharmacist, and he said some of his patients already exceed the 4.5 gram limit, and he warned that they could be pushed back to opioids if it is imposed.
Last year’s bill would have introduced a 25 gram limit. It gained bipartisan support, but Reynolds was unconvinced. GOP lawmakers are now reluctant to increase the limit beyond 4.5 grams, contending that Reynolds has given them a “pretty clear indication of what she wants”.
The new conditions added to the program would include autism and PTSD.
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