Lawmakers Legalize Limited Form Of Medical Marijuana

Votes come in the overnight hours as legislature pushes to adjourn

By Mike Wiser, Lee-Gazette Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES – Lawmakers legalized a limited form of medical marijuana early Thursday morning giving people who suffer from severe epileptic seizures another option for treatment.

The bill allows patients, or their guardians, to possess up to 32 ounces of cannabidiol. Sometimes called CBD, it's an oil derived from cannabis that has medical applications but doesn't a high concentration of THC.

Only people who obtain a neurologist's prescription would be able to obtain the state-issued card which gives them immunity from prosecution if found in possession of the drug.

They'll also have to travel out-of-state to get the drug since it's illegal to produce it here.

“I think it's important that it's very narrowly defined,” said Jarad Klein, R-Keota, the House floor manager. The bill passed in the House 77-20.

The Senate took up the bill at 4:28 a.m., about an hour after the House vote and passed the bill 38-8.

The legislation also requires the University of Iowa to gather research each year on cannabidiol for the General Assembly and Iowa Department of Public Health annually.

“What we're offering today is hope for these families that they can finally get some access to something that can help them,” said Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls.

Legalization advocates pushed all year for a bill to loosen restrictions on cannabis, but it wasn't until the final few weeks of session that real movement began.

Credit for pushing the issue is split among a group of mothers of epileptic children who individually lobbied lawmakers on the issue and West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer and his wife, Sally. The influential Republican couple, whose daughter, 24-year-old Margaret, suffers from seizures, made inroads with House and Senate GOP members.

Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, who was one of 20 “no” votes in the House, asked people to be careful with terminology. “This does not legalize medical marijuana,” he said. “It's important we say that so.”

Gov. Terry Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor would have to review the legislation.

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