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Medical Marijuana

DES MOINES — A potential partnership with a neighboring state may be the most likely expansion of Iowa’s limited medical cannabis law this year.

Advocates have spent months pushing state lawmakers to expand Iowa’s medical cannabis program, which permits Iowans to possess cannabidiol, a medicinal byproduct of the marijuana plant, to treat children with epileptic seizures, but the law does not provide access to cannabidiol in the state.

Multiple proposals have failed to gain sufficient support from state lawmakers.

The latest plan to emerge, being explored by House Republicans, would establish a partnership between Iowa and Minnesota, which has a more expansive medical cannabis program, in which Iowans would be able to purchase cannabidiol from Minnesota dispensaries.

Iowa state lawmakers have been in contact with Minnesota state lawmakers, and the offices of the states’ governors also have been in contact regarding the issue. Any potential partnership would require a change to Minnesota’s law.

Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, said Iowa legislators also are considering partnerships with other states with more expansive medical cannabis programs, including Illinois, but the most substantive discussions have been with Minnesota.

“We’re thinking what Iowans could potentially do to acquire it immediately, to acquire it affordably,” Nunn said.

Other legislative proposals would permit the production and sale of cannabidiol in Iowa.

Those same advocates said the proposed partnership with Minnesota falls short of their expectations. In a statement, Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis said Iowans still would have to travel great lengths to obtain cannabidiol and there is insufficient time left in Iowa’s legislative session to craft a proposal and get it approved by legislators and the governor.

“We’re pleased that (Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake) is interested in helping Iowans that need medical cannabis. However, suggesting we look to another state to solve Iowa’s problem is counter-productive at this stage in the session,” Steve Gaer, co-founder of Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis, said in a statement.

“We need the comprehensive solution that (Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines) and a large, bipartisan group of legislators have been advocating for since the beginning of this session to become law,” Gaer said.

Nunn said any proposal will have its supporters and detractors and House Republicans simply are trying to expand access to cannabidiol for Iowans in need.

“We’re not going to have revolutionary change to what’s already in current code,” Nunn said. “We’re trying to establish a better public policy to be able to afford people the ability to get the cannabidiol that they use for their ailment.”

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State house reporter for The Courier/Lee Enterprises.

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