Senate panel advances medical marijuana expansion

DES MOINES — A committee in the Iowa Senate has voted to expand Iowa’s medical marijuana law, but the move faces firm opposition in the Iowa House.

Critics say current state restrictions make it difficult for the companies that won state licenses to make and sell cannabis oil, creams and pills to stay in business. The bill that cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee Monday afternoon would get rid of a limit on the amount of the “THC” chemical allowed in cannabis products. Dane Schumann, a lobbyist for MedPharm Iowa, said the change is “crucial” for the success of the company.

“With that THC cap in place at three percent as it is, it’s going to be extremely difficult for MedPharm to treat the patients that the legislature has asked us to treat,” he said, “particularly those with severe and chronic pain ad many cancer patients that are experiencing pain as well.”

Peter Komendowski of the Partnership for a Drug-free Iowa opposes the idea of increasing THC levels in cannabis products.

“It is the open door, the Trojan Horse that establishes all of the basis for legalizing marijuana use,” Komandowski said. “…I am very hard-pressed to find anybody in the medical community, mental health treatment that says we should rush to market with a product that has not been thoroughly tested and evaluated and approved by the FDA.”

Last year legislators voted to set up a state-licensed system for growing, producing and selling cannabis products in Iowa, but the cannabis may only be used as treatment for 15 specific medical conditions. Bruce Beeston, who represents the National Veterans Recovery Center, told the senate committee most veterans would like to see the cannabis oil, pills and cream available as treatment for post traumatic stress.

“I know several hundred of them who have been treating themselves for 40 years and doing a great job with it,” Beeston said. “We’d love to see it be legalized, come up with a way that they could get it in a way other than smoking it.”

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer has made it clear this year that she opposes expanding Iowa’s medical marijuana law. Upmeyer says lawmakers should wait for a panel of experts that will review the law starting in May and report their findings to the legislature.

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