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DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa only recently legalized the usage of medical cannabis oil for patients with chronic epilepsy last year, but state lawmakers are pushing for an expansion to give access to those with other illnesses.

Senate Study Bill 1243 expands the conditions eligible for medicines made from cannabis. Current Iowa law, under the Medical Cannabidiol Act in 2014, allows possession and use of up to 32 ounces of cannabis oil for the sole purpose of treating chronic epilepsy and its side-effects. However, production of these products are not legal in Iowa, and patients must access them in other states, where it is often illegal for out-of-state visitors to obtain the products.

SSB 1243 essentially does four things:

  • Expands the list of conditions eligible for medical cannabis to ten, including cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, AIDS/HIV, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Chron’s Disease, amyotrophic later sclerosis (ALS), Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
  • Establishes a Medical Advisory Board that would provide oversight of the program and consider additional medical conditions that should be eligible for medical cannabis,
  • Allows for cultivation, production, and dispensing of medical cannabis at multiple locations across Iowa,
  • Allows various forms of medical cannabis – not just oil – to be sold, but smoking medical cannabis is not permitted.

Five speakers presented their cases at a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol. A mother of twins with epilepsy, Kim Novy of Altoona, explained, while her children are currently eligible to receive medical cannabis oil, they cannot afford the out-of-state travel expenses to access it. Four other patients of chronic illnesses, including ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, lung cancer, and PTSD plead to lawmakers to consider expanding the law.

“Because I live in Iowa, does my life not matter? We have many Iowans with chronic conditions. Their lives matter, too,” said Lori Tassin of Des Moines, who is battling Stage 4 lung cancer. “Why would we need to leave our state for a treatment option? We Iowans want this option.”

The bill is sponsored by Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), and Senator Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo) spoke on its behalf Tuesday.

“Last year, large bipartisan majorities in Iowa Legislature approved Iowa’s first medical cannabis program,” he said. “Unfortunately, that legislation has so far not helped a single Iowa family. Iowans deserve to have full access to the same medicines already available to the majority of all Americans. Twenty-three other states have shown this can be done in a responsible, medically-sound way.”

Sen. Dotzler says he believes the bill could be reviewed by a subcommittee as early as next week.