Restrictive Senate Amendment to House Medical Cannabidiol Bill

Iowa State Capitol

After months of saying the 3% THC cap would never be lifted unless the Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board recommended lifting it, the Iowa House mysteriously decided to lift the 3% cap on THC just days before the legislative funnel deadline on March 8.  House File 732 (medical cannabidiol) was introduced on March 6, voted out of subcommittee on March 6, and voted out of committee on March 7.  See, “What really happened last week with the medical cannabidiol bill”, Bleeding Heartland, April 1

On March 26 the Iowa House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, by a vote of 96-3, in favor of HF 732.  HF 732 was immediately messaged to the Iowa Senate where it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  A Senate subcommittee met on April 1 and recommended passage without amendment.  Those in attendance at the Senate subcommittee hearing were told that any changes would kill the bill in the Iowa House and no amendments would be allowed.

However, when the bill was considered by the full committee on April 4, the committee passed an amendment, S-3124, on a staight party vote of 9 Republicans to 5 Democrats and then recommended passage with amendment by a vote of 13-1.  This might change the situation dramatically.  Further amendments might now be filed in the Senate, and the House will likely be considering an amended version of HF 732 which might be amended further in the House.  Fasten your seat belts.

Medical cannabis legislation has never been an easy task in Iowa.  Negotiations are typically not completed until the last day of the session and then only during overtime.  Senate File 2360 (Iowa Code Chapter 124D) was finally negotiated around 3:00 a.m. on May 1, 2014; and House File 524 (Iowa Code Chapter 124E) was finally negotiated around 5:00 a.m. on April 21, 2017.

To help us understand what is going on we need to know some history on the efforts of the current Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Brad Zaun.  Senator Zaun is a medical cannabis advocate.  A time line will help with our understanding.

April 15, 2015:

Senator Zaun was the only Republican to vote for Senate File 484 (medical cannabis), which passed in the Iowa Senate by a vote of 26-19.  26 votes are needed to obtain a constitutional majority in the Iowa Senate.  SF 484 did not pass in the Iowa House.

April 17, 2017:

The Iowa Senate voted 45-5 for Senate File 506 (medical cannabis).  Senator Zaun voted with the majority.  SF 506 did not pass in the Iowa House.

January 22, 2019:

Senator Zaun introduced Senate File 77 (medical cannabidiol), which proposed changing the THC cap from 3% to 13%.  A subcommittee approved SF 77 on January 31, but no further action was taken on it.

February 12, 2019:

Senator Zaun introduced Senate File 256 (medical cannabidiol), which left the THC cap at 3%.  A subcommittee approved SF 256 on February 18 and on March 5 the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SF 256 with an amendment on federalism.  The amendment to SF 256 passed by a vote of 14-1.

March 6, 2019:

SF 256 as amended was introduced as Senate Judiciary Committee bill Senate File 501.

What does it all mean?

Considering that Senator Zaun proposed raising the THC limit to 13% and then backed off to the current 3%, it’s no surprise that on April 4 when the Senate Judiciary Committee received HF 732 with no limit on THC, the committee amended it by striking that section and replacing it with the current 3% cap on THC.  However, the committee did not strike the 25 grams of THC per 90-day limit.  So, HF 732 now is more restrictive than current law regarding THC.  Obviously, this is a dramatic change from what the Iowa House passed.

It’s uncertain what the future holds for HF 732.  It could be amended if it gets debated on the Senate floor.  It could be amended if it gets debated on the House floor (if the Senate passes it with the amendment and sends it back to the House).  Certain committees and leadership can still file bills, so we could still see a different bill emerge before the session ends.

Perhaps there is still time for a very important amendment on federalism that got lost in all of this mysterious activity.  Here it is again, for those who are concerned about consistency between state and federal law.

Please add the same language to HF 732.

House File 732
1Amend File 732 as follows:
21.  Page 2, after line 18 by inserting:
3<Sec. ___.  NEW SECTION124E.20  Federal regulations not
5Notwithstanding any federal regulation to the contrary, the
6use of medical cannabidiol pursuant to this chapter is not
7subject to federal regulation.>
82.  By renumbering as necessary.

Stay tuned!

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