Medical marijuana expansion clears Iowa Senate subcommittee

DES MOINES — A panel of three state senators has endorsed the idea of giving Iowans access to cannabis products for treatment of any medical condition — if a doctor, physician’s assistant or registered nurse says it would be beneficial.

“To me, this is what fixes the problem that we have. Not perfect, but it helps out a lot of suffering Iowans,” Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, said in a senate subcommittee meeting Monday.

Zaun current state law is too restrictive since it limits medical marijuana treatment to a limited list of conditions and requires patients to get the go-ahead from a doctor. Lucas Nelson is the general manager of MedPharm Iowa which operates two of the five dispensaries in the state. He said allowing registered nurses and physician’s assistants recommend marijuana as a treatment option would expand access to patients in rural areas of the state.

About 1300 Iowans have obtained the state-issued cards that let them buy cannabis pills, oils and creams. Nelson compared that to the 44,000 people who’re enrolled in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program.

“I think there are more Iowans out there who would benefit and I think this bill would absolutely help them do that,” Nelson told the senate subcommittee members.

Amy Campbell, a lobbyist for addiction treatment programs, raised concerns cannabis products might fall into the wrong hands if this bill becomes law.

“We’re concerned about the home delivery and how we would ensure the safety of that home delivery,” Campbell told lawmakers.

The bill specifically says Iowans could use medical marijuana if they’re a patient in a hospice facility and as treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, the top Republican in the House, has said lawmakers should wait for recommendations from a state board appointed to oversee Iowa’s medical marijuana program, so these expansion plans being discussed in the Senate face an uncertain future.