Iowa Lawmaker Stalling Medical Cannabis Bill

Published: Apr. 6, 2016 at 6:51 PM CDT
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An expansion of Iowa's medical marijuana law might have to wait until the next legislative session.

A law from 2014 permits the use of cannabis oil to treat severe epilepsy. But it doesn't allow the manufacture or sale of cannabis oil in Iowa. It also doesn't allow anyone to bring in the oil from out of state.

House File 2384 would allow people with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and cancer to use cannabis oil. It would also establish two growing and distribution centers in Iowa.

It's seen a lot of bipartisan support this session. Even the Gov. Terry Branstad said he was open to working with the legislature on the issue, earlier this week. Unfortunately for supporters, the bill is stuck in the House's Ways and Means Committee and is running out of time.

Rep. Tom Sands (R-Wapello) chairs Ways and Means. He has essentially become the unofficial gatekeeper of the bill. He has yet to assign it to a subcommittee.

Sands said he's not sold on the safety of cannabis oil yet. He said more study is needed and that ultimately the Food and Drug Administration should make the call on the substance, not lawmakers.

"The correct dosages would be known," said Sands. "The side effects would be known. How it might interact with other drugs would be known. Somebody would be held accountable. If the legislature does it, who is held accountable?"

Sands said there are a lot of bills that need to get through Ways and Means before session ends. He was uncertain if he would change his mind and assign the cannabis bill before then.

Sands' block has drawn frustration from fellow Republicans who support the bill. Rep. Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines) for one.

Cownie is the manager of the bill and said Wednesday he's tired of waiting for this law to become reality.

"I don't think we have time to wait for the federal government," said Cownie. "The federal government has had since 2008 to get this done. My life is too short as well as the people, the most vulnerable who need this."

Regular session wraps up April 19th.