What really happened last week with the medical cannabidiol bill?

On Saturday, March 30, the Des Moines Register reported that a member of the Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Committee resigned over comments made on the floor of the House during debate on House File 732.

Iowa House members who voted this week to allow the sale of stronger medical marijuana products said they were following the advice of physicians on a state board — even though that board voted unanimously last fall not to recommend the change.

The House’s action prompted the resignation this week of a physician who serves on the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board.

Des Moines neurologist Wendy Zadeh was among eight board members who voted in November 2018 to maintain the state’s 3% cap on THC, the chemical that can make marijuana users high.

Medical marijuana bill allowing stronger medications contradicts stance of state’s expert panel, Des Moines Register, March 29, 2019.

The article incorrectly states that HF 732 was drafted solely from the input of the advisory committee.  Video of the debate reveals that the advisory committee and “others” were involved in drafting the bill.  Representative Klein said the bill was the result of working with members of the board “and both parties,” not solely of input from the board.

House Video (2019-03-26)

In another example of inaccurate reporting, on March 5, WHO TV reported that Senate File 256 would remove the THC limit that producers can put in each dose of medical cannabidiol.  But SF 256 did not remove the 3% cap on THC.  The next day House Study Bill 244 (now HF 732) was introduced and voted out of subcommittee at 9:30 a.m. the same day it was introduced.  HSB 244 (HF 732) actually does remove the 3% cap on THC.

In statements made on the floor of the House on March 26, Representative Klein, the floor manager of the bill, said the legislature had worked with the Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board and others.  Representative Klein never said that the advisory board had recommended removing the THC cap.  While it’s true the advisory board did not recommend removing the cap, it’s hard to imagine the board’s role is to object to a proposal by law makers to remove the cap.  The board’s duties are clearly defined in the statute:

The medical cannabidiol board may recommend a statutory revision to the definition of medical cannabidiol contained in this chapter that increases the tetrahydrocannabinol level to more than three percent, however, any such recommendation shall be submitted to the general assembly during the regular session of the general assembly following such submission.  The general assembly shall have the sole authority to revise the definition of medical cannabidiol for purposes of this chapter.

Iowa Code §124E.5(6)

The advisory board has no authority to recommend lowering the THC limit or to recommend leaving it at 3%.  Law makers may propose something the advisory board did not recommend.  The member who resigned is mistaken to imply Representative Klein attributed that recommendation to the board.  The advisory committee can only recommend increasing the THC limit, so it has no authority to recommend leaving the cap at 3%.  And, the board’s reason for not recommending an increase wasn’t strong.  According to the Des Moines Register, board member Lonny Miller, a family physician from Creston, said at the time, “I’d like to get another year or two under our belts and see how people respond with the current THC cap.”

Here is a time line that will fill in some (but, not all) of the missing details.

December 18, 2018:

Activities of the Medical Cannabidiol Board Report – the board recommended, among other things:

Leaving the THC cap on medical cannabidiol products manufactured in Iowa at 3% in Iowa Code §124E.5(6).

Removing felony disqualifiers for patients and primary caregivers in Iowa Code §124E.4(1)(f) and Iowa Code §124E.4(3)(c).

Adding physician assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner to the definition of health care practitioner in Iowa Code §124E.2(5).

February 12, 2019:

SF 256 was introduced by Senator Brad Zaun.

Among other things, Senator Zaun’s bill:

Left the THC cap at 3%.

Removed felony disqualifiers.

Added physician assistant and advanced registered nurse practitioner to the definition of health care practitioner.

February 18, 2019:

SF 256 passed out of subcommittee at 3:30 p.m. on February 18.

February 18, 2019:

Radio Iowa reported:

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, the top Republican in the House, has said lawmakers should wait for recommendations from a state board appointed to oversee Iowa’s medical marijuana program, so these expansion plans being discussed in the Senate face an uncertain future.

Medical marijuana expansion clears Iowa Senate subcommittee, Radio Iowa, February 18, 2019.

February 23, 2019:

Des Moines Register reported that 78% of Iowans want the medical marijuana program expanded:

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer’s spokesman said recently that she continues to doubt the need for legislators to loosen restrictions on which Iowans can purchase the medications.  She would prefer that any such moves come from a board of physicians that was appointed last year to consider proposals.

Iowa Poll: 78% want medical marijuana program expanded, 48% would allow recreational pot, Des Moines Register, February 23, 2019.

February 26, 2019:

Cedar Rapids Gazette reported:

“There are things that can be done, things we will do, that make it a little easier, a little safer and give the board a little more latitude,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said Tuesday after meeting with members of the Medical Cannabidiol Board.

House speaker eyes more cannabidiol access for Iowans, Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 26, 2019.

March 5, 2019:

Senate File 501 passed out of committee (formerly SF 256 – with an amendment on exemption from federal regulation added that same day by a vote of 14-1)


March 5, 2019:

WHO TV reported (incorrectly):

The bill would remove the limit of THC that producers can put in each dose, allow for more dispensaries in the state, and mandate Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Board to include PTSD on the list of qualifying conditions.

Medical Marijuana Expansion, E-Verify Mandate Bills Both Advance Through Funnel Week, WHO TV 13, March 5, 2019.

March 6, 2019:

HSB 244 introduced by Committee on Public Safety Chairperson Representative Jarad Klein.  Oddly, Representative Klein’s bill actually does remove the limit on THC that WHO TV incorrectly reported was in the Senate bill a day earlier.

March 6, 2019:

HSB 244 passed out of subcommittee at 9:30 a.m. on the same day it was introduced.

March 7, 2019:

HF 732 passed out of committee (formerly HSB 244) by a vote of 21-0.

March 26, 2019:

HF 732 passed in the House by a vote of 96-3.

Representative Klein’s bill recommended removing the limit on THC, which the advisory board did not recommend.  But Representative Klein said the advisory board and “others” were included in preparation of the legislative proposal.  The advisory board was never given authority to write legislation.  A good analogy would be the recommendation of the pharmacy board in 2010 to remove marijuana from state schedule 1, which the legislature still hasn’t done.  Chapter 124E authorizes the advisory board to recommend increasing the THC limit, but not to recommend lowering it or even keeping it at 3%.

Until February 26, Speaker Upmeyer had been saying there would be no changes this year which did not leave Chairman Klein a lot of time to run a bill a week before the funnel deadline.

The Senate started working earlier and gave people more time to participate.

Representative Klein deserves an award for work extremely well done in a short amount of time and under extreme pressure.  HF 732 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it will receive further consideration.

Leave a Reply