DES MOINES — State lawmakers do not need a special committee to study potential expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program, Republican legislative leaders said Thursday.
Democratic leaders requested the issue be among the topics researched by interim legislative committees — groups of lawmakers tasked with learning more about a topic between legislative sessions.
The majority party sets the agenda for interim committees, and Republicans did not include medical cannabis.
The Iowa Legislature this past session approved an expansion of the state’s medical cannabis program. But the proposal was vetoed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The legislation would have eliminated the cap on the product’s potency and instead limited how much an individual could be prescribed. Reynolds said she vetoed the proposal because the proposed cap of 25 grams over 90 days was too much.
Republican leaders said during Thursday’s meeting of the legislative studies committee that they plan to once again work on the issue during next year’s legislative session with a goal of designing a proposal that Reynolds will support.
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So, Republicans said, the interim committee was unnecessary.
“I think this issue is going to be at the forefront of the 2020 legislative session,” said Jack Whitver, the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Ankeny. “We can put that bill together without a formal (interim committee).”
Democrats said they would have preferred to have an interim study committee in order to get more input from the public.
Members of the public are able to give feedback on proposed legislation during subcommittee meetings held during the session, but an interim committee would have been the public more time and a better opportunity, said John Forbes, a Democratic state lawmaker and pharmacist from Urbandale.
“The thought was that if we can have an interim committee meeting, bring public members in and voice their opinion and concerns, I think that strengthens our bill and allows other legislators the opportunity to be able to hear what their constituents are saying, too,” Forbes said.
Republican leaders established nine interim study committees, eight of which are permanent and the ninth of which was established in 2018. The topics include reviewing the state budget, tax incentives, health care policy, state government efficiency, the state public employees’ retirement system, the state public school funding formula, and the state’s gas tax distribution formula.