March 3 is the legislative funnel date

A variety of medical cannabis bills have been filed in the Iowa legislature this year. One, HSB 132, has actually passed in a Republican controlled subcommittee. The end of this week, Friday, March 3, 2017, is the funnel date when bills have to be passed by a full committee to remain eligible for further debate. There are exceptions to the funnel date and amendments can be filed to bills that are still viable after the funnel date, so don’t be completely distraught if none of these bills passes out of committee by Friday.

I’m going to describe several of the bills by grouping them by their similarity.

Whole Plant Cannabis

SF 205 and HF 199 are very similar. Both bills would allow whole plant cannabis to be grown and used for a variety of medical conditions in Iowa. These two bill have only Democrat cosponsors and no Republican cosponsors. Both bills look similar to SF 484 from 2015 which passed by a narrow partisan vote in a Democrat controlled Iowa Senate in 2015 and then died in a Republican controlled Iowa House in 2016. SF 205 has been assigned to a subcommittee in the Republican controlled Iowa Senate. HF 199 has not been assigned to a subcommittee in the Republican controlled Iowa House. I’ve registered in favor of both of these two bills, SF 205 and HF 199.

Cannabidiol Only

Iowa State Representative Clel Baudler

Iowa State Representative Clel Baudler

I’m guessing that the reason HF 199 has not been assigned to a subcommittee in the Republican controlled Iowa House is probably because the Chair of the House Committee on Public Safety, Greenfield Republican Representative Clel Baudler, has filed his own medical cannabis bill, HSB 132. Chairman Baudler’s bill actually passed by a 3-0 vote in a subcommittee on February 24, 2017, and Republicans are saying this is the bill that will eventually make it through the full committee before the funnel date this Friday. However, the chair of the committee, Clel Baudler, now says he will not let the committee vote on it, because there are only 4 Republicans willing to vote in favor of it. Rep. Baudler says he will not allow a vote on a bill that only a majority of Democrats will support and the majority of his party will not support. I’ve registered in favor of this bill, HSB 132.


Iowa State Senator Brad Zaun

Iowa State Senator Brad Zaun

Finally, there are three bills that all have a very unusual similarity. SF 282, filed by the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Brad Zaun, and HSB 159, and HSB 164, filed by Rep. Baudler, all seem to be filed on behalf of a pharmaceutical company, GW Pharmaceuticals (going by the name of Greenwich Biosciences, Inc.). All three of these bills have been assigned to subcommittees, but it’s unclear if any of them will be approved by those subcommittees. I have registered against all three of these bills, SF 282, HSB 159, and HSB 164.

Complaint with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy

It just doesn’t seem appropriate to me for a pharmaceutical company to by lobbying in Iowa for their product (without mentioning the product by name in the bill) when the usual course of action with a pharmaceutical drug is to have a product approved by the FDA, classified as a prescription drug by the DEA, and then approved by the state legislature after the federal approvals have been completed. I’ve filed a complaint with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy that will be considered at their meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Congressman Young and Senator Whitver

Congressman David Young

Congressman David Young

I met with Iowa Congressman David Young and Iowa Senate President Jack Whitver on Friday, February 17, 2017, to, among other things, let them know about my complaint with the pharmacy board about SF 282. I received a nice post card from Congressman Young following the meeting.

Postcard from Congressman Young

Postcard from Congressman Young

Iowa State Senator Jack Whitver

Iowa State Senator Jack Whitver


I’m not into conspiracy theories, but it does seem strange that the bill we were expecting, HSB 132, has suddenly lost the support of Chairman Baudler, and now Chairman Baudler is sponsoring two crazy bills for a pharmaceutical company. A legislator on the subcommittee that approved HSB 132 (Rep. Kristi Hager) told a mother of a child with epilepsy (Erin Miller) that

Erin, I know this is a difficult place to be. HSB 132 did not pass committee so it won’t go anywhere at this time.

However HSB 164 was introduced which essentially extends the cannabidiol sunset. Rep Klein, Kacena, and myself have been assigned as the subcommittee to this.

One of the reasons HSB 132 failed is in light of the current Federal Law stating “while states can decriminalize marijuana, federal law is clear that a state cannot issue licenses or otherwise sell marijuana.” This bill called for licensing fees. Another concern was the use of Carver College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy for providing the scientific trials without the allocation of funds to do this. There were other concerns around this in assuring a uniform product, etc.

Thanks again for reaching out . . . Kristi

And then:

Erin, thank you. Your mom also wrote me and mentioned the need your son has. I added a reminder note to look at an amendment to cover individuals receiving cannabidiol oil now who may not fall inside the Epidiolex guidelines to allow them to continue receiving current therapy. We’ll have our subcommittee I’m guessing on Monday or Tuesday.

Greenwich Biosciences, Inc., is registered in support of HSB 159, but has not registered any position on SF 282 or HSB 164. It still looks suspicious to me. It looks to me like SF 282 and HSB 164 are compromise positions to HSB 159 intended to keep the Iowa parents of children with epilepsy in favor of the modified versions of the GW Pharmaceutical bill. That’s just my personal opinion. I have been following this closely.

A scientist who works for GW Pharmaceutical helped me win my case with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy in 2010, and that same scientist was involved in setting up clinical trials of the product here in Iowa with the University of Iowa medical school. Just to be clear, I have nothing against GW Pharmaceutical. I just don’t support what GW Pharmaceutical is trying to do with these bills. Not everyone responds well to the GW Pharmaceutical product (which has no THC in it). Current Iowa law allows for cannabidiol products with up to 3% THC in them.


I support sections 2 and 3, of SF 282 and HSB 164, which extend the current law. If you’re covered now, you would still be covered.

And, I am not opposed to rescheduling Epidiolex, either.

What I am opposed to is mentioning federal scheduling that has not happened, and may never happen.

Show me proof that Epidiolex will ever be scheduled.

The board has always recommended the same changes to state scheduling as the federal government makes, but only after the federal government actually makes the change (not before it).

So, we don’t need a law telling the board to do what it already does.

I see these bills would allow the board to make an emergency rule that would be effective until the legislature approves it, but it’s still based on something our state has no control over (whether the federal government approves Epidiolex, or not).

Another problem I have is that the bill does not actually say Epidiolex. Why not? What other products are there?

I’m only opposed to the part on federal scheduling. We can reschedule Epidiolex right now. Show me a law that says we can’t.

We rescheduled natural THC products in 2008, and the federal government still hasn’t approved any. What is that all about?

Iowa Code § 124.208(9)(b) (2017):

Any drug product in tablet or capsule form containing natural dronabinol (derived from the cannabis plant) or synthetic dronabinol (produced from synthetic materials) for which an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA) has been approved by the United States food and drug administration under section 505(j) of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and which references as its listed drug the drug product identified in paragraph “a”.

Federal scheduling only allows “synthetic” dronabinol (THC). The federal government proposed rescheduling natural dronabinol in 2007.

Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 184, Monday, September 24, 2007

This happened again in 2010.

Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 210, Monday, November 1, 2010

But, neither of these proposed federal rules were ever approved.

The listing for THC still says only “synthetic.”

21 C.F.R. § 1308.13(g) (2017):

Hallucinogenic substances. (1) Dronabinol (synthetic) in sesame oil and encapsulated in a soft gelatin capsule in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved product—7369.
[Some other names for dronabinol: (6aRtrans)-6a,7,8,10a-tetrahydro-6,6,9-trimethyl-3-pentyl-6H-dibenzo [b,d]pyran-1-ol] or (-)-delta-9-(trans)-tetrahydrocannabinol]

Obviously, we can reschedule Epidiolex before the federal government does. If that’s what we want to do, let’s do it. This nonsense about waiting for the federal government is clearly a stall tactic.

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