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Medical cannabis bill alive in House

HF 2384 would allow for cultivation

Published: Thursday, March 3, 2016 1:13 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2016 1:30 p.m. CST
(AP Photo)
Changes to the Medical Cannabidiol Act would allow for growth and harvest of medical marijuana such as this batch in California. Advocates for Iowans who have chronic illnesses want the state legislature to enact provisions to provide a comprehensive medical cannabis program.

A pending Iowa legislative proposal was significantly modified as it made its way through the recent first funnel cycle, but its surviving provisions would still provide a more detailed medical cannabis program than the current one.

HF 2384 seems to have widespread support from Republicans, but it’s tough to tell if the bill has the bipartisan support to make it past the stages needed to become law.

The bill is a successor to HSB 607, which cleared a House Commerce subcommittee by a 3-0 vote on Feb. 17. The modified bill brought forward, HF 2384, is now being called the Medical Cannabidiol Act.

HF 2384 has some strong provisions that would allow for an expanded list of diseases and conditions to be reasons to allow for cannabidiol to be used. It also would make it legal to be produced in controlled settings within Iowa — a provision not included in a 2014 reform that made that law passage somewhat toothless.

Rep. Dan Kelley (D-Newton) serves on the House Ways & Means Committee, where the bill has been stuck since it was introduced to the House on Feb. 22.

“At this time, no subcommittee or committee meetings have been scheduled,” Kelley said Wednesday. “It is up to the chair of that committee — Rep. Tom Sands (R-Wapello), to bring it up for a vote.”

The 2014 law put Iowa among the 23 states — along with Washington, D.C. — to have legalized cannabis for medical use. However, while granting patients and caretakers the legal right to possess cannabidiol, it didn’t provide for a full program to administer the drug, nor the legal means to produce it in Iowa or bring it into the state legally.

Prior to this year’s session, House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said having cannabis or marijuana placed on a different federal “schedule” of drugs would make passing an Iowa reform much easier.

Kelley expressed some of those same types of concerns Wednesday.

“While it’s unclear if the bill will be brought up or changed again, I do believe the FDA should do more testing and take action on cannabidiol to ensure any action we take here in Iowa complies with federal law,” Kelley said.

Newton Police Lt. Wes Breckenridge is running for the state legislature as a Democrat, and has had to deal with cannabis laws firsthand in law enforcement. His daughter, Whitney, suffers from Chron’s disease, and Breckenridge said if there were a need to use an alternate treatment, he would want as many medical options available as possible.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people to try to help get this law passed,” Breckenridge said. “I’ve been in on conference calls and have talked to a lot of Democrats and Republicans about it. I know the law isn’t as strong as it started out, but everything that could help minimize suffering should be passed.”

HF 2384 allows cultivation of cannabis and distribution of cannabidiol products, expands the list of conditions from epilepsy to include multiple sclerosis and terminal cancer and expands the definition of a health care practitioner.

The bill does not, in its current from, cover any other cannabinoids known to medical experts to have medical value and does not remove federal criminal penalties.

Breckenridge knows that unless federal guidelines are changed, qualified patients, producers, and distributors will voluntarily — under current U.S. code — violate federal law by following any new provisions allowed in Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Act.

“These are still steps the Iowa legislature can take for more immediate relief for patients,” Breckenridge said. “And then, hopefully, the feds will look at what so many states are doing, and will re-evaluate.”

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or jbrooks@newtondailynews.com

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