Reduced Cannabis Oil Bill Avoids Funnel

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- An effort to expand medicinal marijuana is a step closer to reality in Iowa.

A bill to allow the manufacture, sale and distribution of cannabis oil in the state has passed the House Commerce Committee, 17-6. It'll avoid Friday's deadline funnel-- when non-budget bills must pass full committees in either the House or Senate to stay alive. But the legislation has changed quite a bit.

Originally, the House bill called for the state Department of Health to issue licenses to four cannabis manufacturers and 12 dispensers. The new version reduces that to two manufactures that could also dispense cannabis oil.

The old version also allowed doctors to prescribe cannabis oil for more than 10 conditions. The new version, just three; M.S., terminal cancer and severe epilepsy.

Thanks to legislation, passed in 2014, cannabis oil is technically legal to use in Iowa for help with chronic epilepsy. But, lawmakers didn’t go further.

It's illegal to bring cannabis oil in, or buy it in the state.

Though the new bill doesn't go as far to change things as it once did, Representative Peter Cownie, who introduced it, said getting the bill through committee is a step in the right direction.

"Let's be clear, this is progress,” said Cownie. “The foundation was built two years ago. What was passed out of subcommittee today is progress on this. It's going to help Iowans."

The bill will now head to the House for debate. There, Republican Speaker Linda Upmeyer, (R-Clear Lake) has been critical of it. She's said Iowa doctors worry they'll lose their license writing prescriptions for cannabis oil, seeing as the FDA hasn't approved marijuana for medical use.

“I still really believe that the FDA is the arbiter of what is a medication," Upmeyer told Iowa Radio. "And making sure that the safety, the quality — all those things is the same for any medication.”