A New Years Look At Iowa’s Cannabis Laws

Cannabis laws in Iowa are a bad enough joke that they could be part of some sardonic punchline. People often don’t understand just how convoluted our laws are unless they are spelled out for them. In our state you can buy hemp products but only “whole” plant products. It is possible purchase cannabidiol from hemp online but you cannot buy it in a storefront but it is still technically illegal to possess. It’s also not legal for you to possess cannabis even if you have a prescription because you would had to of illegally acquired it in any of its forms. Iowa cannabis legislation isn’t just bad, it’s tragically bad. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the problem areas and see what we can possibly fix.

An incident recently in Muscatine proves some of the hypocrisies in our states laws. Stores are being investigated by police for selling the beneficial and isolated compound cannabidiol from hemp /or/ cannabis. Hemp products are not uncommon in stores as they are plentiful. Hemp is like it’s friendly cousin cannabis, it also contains cannabidiol but contains only minute amounts of the psychoactive compound THC. Proponents of hemp products argue that cannabidiol gathered from hemp would be a hemp product. In 2014 cannabidiol was changed to a controlled substance and it seems only since recently it is being enforced and causing this confusion. So if you are in possession of a CBD oil regardless if it comes from hemp or cannabis it seems you are breaking state law.

Many patients and activists are excited of the potential of our medical cannabis bill, but there’s so much more that needs to be done. One of the biggest glaring mistakes in it is the THC cap of three percent. It makes the management for chronic pain, a covered condition, very difficult. You also run the risk of having the edible form of cannabis as your most “viable” form of medication. Edibles are a great way to get a measured dose of cannabis however not all people can eat cannabis. Other treatment methods will potentially be very expensive to patients.

That brings us to the next point, our bill doesn’t allow for inhalation as a treatment option. After all, is the most cost-effective way to use cannabis and the quickest acting. Our medical cannabis program needs to be as robust as any other program offered. There are less than 600 people in the state signed up for a program that’s been around for 4 years. That should be a testament to its success, or lack thereof. In the bill that was wrote for the cannabis program it was added that the program was to be made self-sustaining. It’s obvious the legislators are aware of the issues and might be might be trying to get the cannabis board to fix the problems therein. The program flaws are also their responsibility to fix as well, both sides are responsible.

If the medical cannabis program is to become a self-sustaining program it needs to become a patient friendly. The doctors that I have talked to do not want to participate. It would be much easier for patients to enroll if they could submit their medical records with a document stating their conditions. It removes the need for a physician to put their name on any documents but clearly states the patient has is qualified for treatment in the medical cannabis program. Illinois employs this for patients applying in the VA and it works well.

The limit on dispensaries and grow operations is also absurd and needs to change. I would like to also add patients should be able to grow their own medicine as well as purchase from a dispensary. There is only one grow operation licensed in the state and there will only be two allowed in the state. Patients looking for affordable treatment options and ease of access will find troubles the way things are heading. That’s considering if a dispensary opens and the patient patient can access to it.

This is not an attractive market to invest in. If you want a chance at one of the only grow operations or one of the five dispensaries you have to pay a non-refundable application fee to the state, but even then you need industry connections. If you don’t have industry connections you have to buy them. It’s a 2-5 million dollar investment that you won’t see any return on for 3-5 years at least. 

These are just the laws that affect patients and medical cannabis. In Muscatine if the police where to prosecute the people at the stores who were in possession of the CBD oil they would be forced to charge them with the full weight of the product. Anything over 15 grams would put you in felony territory. That means a small 30 ML bottle could technically land you some serious jail time. Edible forms of cannabis also fall under this category. A tray of brownies that may contain only a few grams of cannabis, but turns into several ounces easily when you mix it with cake batter. These laws are completely unfair and in Iowa the criminalization of cannabis has been historically unfair to people of color.

Poll results vary in Iowa when the question recreational cannabis comes up. Medical always comes in high with the results consistently in the eighty percentile. Realistically there is no reason for politicians to remain apprehensive on this issue. I have been told by some legislators there will more energy devoted to cannabis this year. Last year several bills proposed were written for cannabis, two of them by me. With a renewed focus on the issue I remain cautiously optimistic, but as always I’m willing to offer my knowledge to those looking to elevate the issue. I’m hoping this year we can fix the medical bill and get serious with decriminalization.

Quinn Symonds

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