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Iowa Legislature removes THC cap on medical marijuana

May 1, 2019

Iowa’s legislative session came to an exciting end for medical marijuana patients.

A bill that would remove the cap on how much THC may be in a cannabis-product designated for medical use has passed both floors of the legislature and is headed to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk for either approval or veto.

The Iowa State Senate advanced the bill to the governor’s desk in a 40 to 7 vote. The bill, if approved by the governor, would remove the current 3 percent cap on THC from medical marijuana. In removing the cap, legislators approved a per-patient limit of 25 grams of marijuana per 90 day period.

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The only exception for this rule is that terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of one year or less may receive a waiver to get more than 25 grams.

Sen. Tom Greene, a pharmacist in his pre-politician life, voted in favor of the bill. He told Iowa Public Radio that this bill’s journey has been a turbulent one but necessary for patients’ health.

“This has been a long journey. I know many patients who need this medication. This is a small step, but we need to keep the ball rolling,” Greene said. “Reclassification of this will make leaps and bounds and just really provide that care for those Iowans.”

What the proposed bill will do if passed

The bill specifically allows for more potent medical marijuana products to be sold at the state’s five licensed dispensaries. The current 3 percent cap on THC, the chemical credited with giving patients a medically approved high, would be lifted and replaced with a per-person limit on the amount of marijuana product each patient is allowed to receive on a tri-monthly basis.

Every 90 days, patients eligible for medical marijuana as a form of treatment would be allowed to receive up to 25 grams of cannabis-products. The only exception being for those patients that are deemed terminally-ill with a life expectancy of less than one year.

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The bill would also expand the type of health-care providers that may provide recommendations for marijuana as a form of medical treatment. Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners would be allowed to recommend patients for medical marijuana cards.

The bill would also remove a ban on people with certain criminal charges related to cannabis from receiving medical marijuana cards.

What lifting the THC cap actually means

Senator Rich Taylor argues that by lifting the THC cap, Iowan growers and producers would be able to do more for the patients in their state but in a controlled manner.

“We’re not just putting it out there willy-nilly and allowing everybody in Iowa to have access to this. You have to clear the hoops to get this drug,” Taylor said. “And the people of Iowa need it. And they expect us to get it to them.”

[Lawmakers in Florida look to cap THC levels for medical cannabis patients; open up insurance coverage options]

The THC cap is not limited to smokeable forms of cannabis. Marijuana growers and manufacturers in the Hawkeye State may also put more THC in creams, pills, and oils. Iowa Public Radio reports that the producers' first priority is going to put less filler in products to make them more affordable for patients.

With the close of the state legislative session, the bill heads to Reynolds’ desk for signature. While it remains unclear as to whether she supports the bill, Iowans can have hope that their Legislature is in favor of more potent medical products for their patients.

(Video courtesy of YouTube "Expanding the use of medical marijuana")
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