Photo Credit: Petr Brož (CC-By-3.0)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed HF 732, the Medical Cannabidiol Act, on Friday afternoon.

The bill made several changes in Iowa law that expanded Iowa’s cannabidiol (CBD) program. For instance, expanded the definition of “healthcare practitioner” to include physician’s assistants, as well as, advanced registered nurse practitioners.

The bill replaced the current program’s restriction that medical CBD have less than a three percent THC level with one with a limit of 25 grams of THC per 90-day period.

HF 732 passed in the Iowa House 96 to 3 on March 26 and then passed in the Iowa Senate 40 to 7 on April 27.

Reynolds said she supported Iowa’s program and the efforts to strengthen and improve it but was concerned about allowing an increased THC level, she noted while several changes within the bill were the result of an agreement between the Iowa Legislature and the Medical Cannabidiol Board that change was not recommended by the board.

“(I)f approved, it would drastically expand Iowa’s medical CBD program far beyond its original scope of CBD-based treatments and could open the door to significant unintended consequences to the health and safety of Iowans,” she stated in her veto message.

Reynolds said she is open to a change in the restriction, “I agree that there should be some change to the three percent THC limit. There appears to be consensus, including from the Board, that a gram-based limit would be more appropriate than a percentage-based limit. But I have not been unable to discern any evidence-based justification for the specific 25-gram limit proposed in this bill. And after its review of the available evidence, the Board recommended a limit of only 4.5 grams per 90-day period.”

“It may be that a THC limit higher than 4.5 grams is appropriate. But the 25-gram limit in this bill would allow a person to consume more than 277 milligrams of THC per day—an amount higher than one would typically consume even with aggressive recreational marijuana use. This is all the more concerning because a participant in the program is not prescribed a particular dosage by a medical practitioner or monitored on an ongoing basis for any adverse health consequences. Iowa’s program only requires a practitioner to certify that the participant suffers from a qualifying condition on an annual basis,” she added.

“Ultimately, I believe Iowa must proceed cautiously to ensure that any expansion of our medical CBD program is thoughtful and deliberate—particularly because Iowa’s program is in its infancy and the body of research that analyzes the efficacy of medical CBD is limited. So I look forward to working with the Legislature and the Medical Cannabidiol Board to find an evidence-based THC limit that we can work to enact along with the rest of the provisions in House File 732 that I support. The health and safety of Iowans is too important for us not to get this right,” Reynolds concluded.

Senate Republicans expressed disappointment in Reynolds’ decision.

“House File 732 contained many provisions to improve our medical cannabidiol program and I am disappointed these did not become law.  I am fully committed to working with Speaker Upmeyer and Governor Reynolds to find a common ground solution to expand and improve Iowans access to medical cannabidiol,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said in a released statement.

“I am extremely disappointed with the governor’s veto of the Medical Cannabidiol Act.  However, after conversations with Governor Reynolds, I am committed to work with her and the House on medical cannabidiol legislation early in the 2020 Session. This will be a top priority in January 2020,” State Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who floor managed the bill in the Senate, said.

Iowa Department of Public Health Director Gerd Clabaugh responded to Reynolds’ veto of the bill.

“I support Governor Reynolds’s veto of House File 732. The medical cannabidiol board was concerned about the amount of THC patients would have been allowed to access if this bill was signed. The Department will continue to look to the Governor, the legislature, and the expertise of the Iowa medical cannabidiol board to provide guidance for ongoing operation of the program,” he said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health said in an email that the current program continues to grow with patient cardholder numbers increasing by hundreds every month since products became available in December of 2018. They also said the number of providers had grown as well with more than 700 providers have certified at least one patient since the program began. They added a second manufacturer would have products available this summer giving Iowans an additional choice.

Photo Credit: Petr Brož (CC-By-3.0)

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