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As new medical marijuana rules take effect, some wonder whether it’s not enough

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - As the calendar flipped over to a new month, several measures recently passed by the Iowa General Assembly and signed by Governor Kim Reynolds went into effect.

Among them is HF2589, which ushers in big changes to the state's medical marijuana program.

Under the changes, patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or severe autism will be eligible for the program.

Rebecca Lucas, Technical Development Manager for MedPharma Iowa, said the new law will expand the number of Iowans who will be able to access the program, particularly in under-served communities.

"If you look on what patients are saying, what people who are following the program are saying, it's pretty clear that the bill does provide a lot of steps in the right direction," she said.

Lucas said a change in the definition from untreatable pain to chronic pain will also make it easier for medical professionals to prescribe.

But the new law is not without concerns. It puts the THC limit to 4.5 grams per 90 days.

Lucas said she is worried 4.5 is too low of a cap and will not help those with severe conditions.

"Some medical cannabis patients in the Iowa program will need to decrease their dose with this new 4.5 grams over 90 day cap," she said. "That's difficult for a lot of people because with adult seizures, your seizures don't just go away magically just because now there's a cap that says that you get less."

That is why State Rep. David Jacoby said he voted no on the bill.

"When you cap the THC and it was 4.5 grams, I'm not a medical expert, but many telling me that that's not effective relief for many individuals," Jacoby said. "If the whole idea is effective relief, so that they don't start or return to opioids, then that's when we leave it to the medical professionals to determine what level of THC should be in that medical prescription."

Both Jacoby and Lucas said they expect medical marijuana to come up again next legislative session.

Other bills that went into effect on Wednesday:

  • SF2268: As of today, you need to be 21 years old to buy tobacco products in Iowa. Had the state not increased the age, it would have lost out on millions in funding for substance abuse programs.
  • HF2540: Legalizes to-go drinks in Iowa.
  • HF737: Increases the punishment for animal cruelty and neglect.

Other bills passed that went into law on Wednesday deal with topics like behavioral health in schools, police officers killed or injured in the line of duty, and lemonade stands. For more on the bills signed by Governor Reynolds, check out our previous coverage.

While the controversial abortion bill, HF594, was passed by lawmakers and signed by Governor Reynolds on Monday, it was blocked by a Johnson County Judge on Tuesday.

The new law would create a waiting period, requiring anyone who wants to have an abortion to wait 24 hours after their initial appointment before they could actually have the procedure done.

In a lawsuit, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland argued that it violates the due process and equal protection rights of women seeking an abortion, much like a 72-hour waiting period law the Iowa Supreme Court struck down in 2018.

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Daniel Perreault

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