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Future of Iowa's Medical Cannabis Business Fraught with Uncertainty

Unlike states such as Colorado, Iowa's law does not legalize use of marijuana for recreational purposes. (Rex Medlen/Pixabay)
Unlike states such as Colorado, Iowa's law does not legalize use of marijuana for recreational purposes. (Rex Medlen/Pixabay)
August 7, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – An expanded version of Iowa's medical cannabis law received the signature of then-Gov. Terry Branstad three months ago, but legal questions and implementation issues could delay its enactment.

At least 50 potential cannabis business operators have contacted the Iowa Department of Public Health, but the medical cannabis board that will review applications and issue licenses hasn't yet been established.

Randy Mayer, coordinator of the Office of Medical Cannabidiol for the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the goal of having producers licensed by December is ambitious.

"I think to make the Dec. 1 deadline for licensing and manufacture, everything would have to work perfectly,” he states. “And I think that it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that there might be some hitches along the way."

Under the law, the department can license two out-of-state sellers, but there are questions about whether that would violate federal law. The Health Department is asking the state attorney general for clarification.

Prior to the expanded law, only people suffering from epileptic seizures could legally use cannabis. Now a variety of ailments, including cancer and Parkinson's disease, qualify as legal justification for use.

To legally use medical cannabis, Iowans have to apply for and receive a registrant card. Mayer says fewer than 120 people have done so, possibly because of the $100 yearly fee, which might be wasted if the program isn't up and operating in a timely fashion.

Mayer says the Legislature conducted research on the potential number of medical cannabis users in the state.

"They estimated about 6,000 Iowans might be interested and eligible to sign up," Mayer relates.

As the state works through its application process, Mayer reminds Iowans that they are breaking the law if they purchase medical marijuana by mail and have it shipped across state lines.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA