Iowans could obtain medical marijuana products for a wider range of health problems under a bill moving in the Iowa Senate.
A Senate subcommittee Monday approved the bill, which would expand Iowa’s fledgling medical marijuana program.
Under current rules, patients wanting to participate in the program must get a physician to certify they have a qualifying medical condition, such as seizures, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or untreatable pain.
If it becomes law, the measure would also let health care providers approve use of marijuana products for any condition for which they determined it could be “medically beneficial.” Supporters say the new language is modeled on rules governing “off-label” orders of prescription drugs. Under those rules, doctors and other health care providers may prescribe medications for conditions other than those for which the drugs were originally approved.
Currently, only physicians may certify patients for Iowa’s medical marijuana program. The measure also would let nurse practitioners and physician assistants certify patients. It also would let patients have medical marijuana products delivered to their homes. Patients or their caregivers must now travel to one of five dispensaries across the state to pick up the medication.
Sen. Brad Zaun, an Urbandale Republican sponsoring the bill, said he is optimistic about the proposal’s chances. “It’s not perfect, but really, this helps out a lot of suffering Iowans,” he said.
About 1,200 Iowa patients have obtained state cards allowing them to purchase oils, creams or capsules with marijuana extracts under Iowa’s program, which launched in December.
The bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Zaun is chairman. The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, passed a medical-marijuana expansion bill last year, but the proposal ran aground in the Republican-controlled House.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, has been a skeptic of expanding the medical marijuana program. Her spokesman, Colin Tadlock, affirmed Monday that she doesn’t see a need for the Legislature to expand the list of conditions for which Iowans can obtain marijuana extracts.
Tadlock noted in an email to the Des Moines Register that the 2017 law setting up the program included a board of physicians with power to recommend new conditions be added to the list. “Nothing is preventing the board from doing this now by rule,” he said.
The board last year backed adding ulcerative colitis and severe childhood autism to the list.