The only medical marijuana producer in Iowa claims it will fold if the state does not expand the list of qualifying conditions and permit higher doses.
MedPharm general manager Lucas Nelson reported that the firm sold 13,500 cannabis products and brought in revenue of $2 million in the first year of operations. However, he said it will not last another year if the current status quo is maintained.
Iowa first legalized cannabis with a THC content of less than 3% to treat intractable epilepsy in children in 2014. Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law an expanded Medical Cannabidiol Act in 2017, expanding the list of qualifying conditions to include cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, severe autism, and a few others.
Yet Nelson wants to see post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s added to the list, and for dispensaries to be able to offer larger doses. If the state does not act, dispensaries will not be able to grow and his firm will not last, he warned.
He is also concerned about developments in neighbouring Illinois. It recently added a number of qualifying conditions to its rapidly growing medical marijuana program, while recreational cannabis sales will begin on Jan. 1, 2020, and Nelson fears that Iowans will cross over the border and buy from Illinois dispensaries.
“I think there is no doubt that they will be going to Illinois to receive the medicine they need, so we’ve got to do something to make sure they stay here and not encourage our own citizens to break the law,” he said.
Branstad’s successor, Gov. Kim Reynolds, toured MedPharm’s facility this week to learn more about its operations. She refused to be pressured into endorsing a change to the state’s medical cannabis laws.
Reynolds said she would not base her policy decisions on developments in Illinois, and added that she wants the program to develop in a rational, safe, and compassionate manner. She also said she will continue to oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana, regardless of developments over the border.
In May, Reynolds vetoed legislation that sought to increase the potency of medical marijuana products permitted under state law by replacing the 3% THC cap with a new system allowing each patient 25 g of THC per 90-day period. Nelson argues that a higher dose of THC would be beneficial to patients and that the current legislation should change.