DES MOINES, Iowa –While the legislative session is over, a small group of lawmakers met at the Statehouse on Thursday to work on creating off-season committees. Some, like the Legislative Tax Expenditure Committee are mandated by state code, but others can be voted on. Democrats wanted to form a committee to hammer out a new medical marijuana expansion bill before next session. The request was voted down 5-4 on party lines.
“Well I’m hopeful that we can craft legislation next year that can be workable for all Iowans. I’m disappointed the committee decided not to appoint an interim committee to be able to study this more thoroughgoingly over the time we’re out of the session and then come back hopefully in the early part of next session with a bill that can get through,” said Democratic State Representative John Forbes.
Every Republican who voted against the study committee voted for the medical marijuana bill that Governor Reynolds vetoed.
During the legislative session the senate voted 40-to-7 in favor of increasing the amount of THC allowed in medical marijuana products and expanding qualifying conditions for use. The house approved the same bill with a vote of 96-to-3. A recent Des Moines Register Iowa poll also showed 78-percent of Iowans support expansion.
Representative Forbes says GOP lawmakers don’t want to rock the boat with this committee or with an effort to overturn the veto.
“The vast majority of them were in support of the bill but they just didn’t want to irritate the governor,” said Forbes.
Senator Jack Whitver is one of the lawmakers who both supported the bill and voted against the study committee. He says it’s in an effort to save money.
“We just want to be diligent about what we’re doing with the taxpayer dollar on official committees and we’re going to come through and work together to prepare a CBD bill for next year,” said Whitver, (R).
Whitver says that work will be done in an unofficial capacity.
“We are committed with the house and with the governor to work together in the off-session to come back with a bill like we do on almost every bill. We work together, we have meetings, we meet with advocates, we meet with the advisory board and come back with a proposal for next year and take it through the normal process,” he said.
In 2017 the same committee approved interim committees to study prescription pain medications, the opioid epidemic, and industrial hemp.