Iowa medical marijuana board faces tight deadlines to help launch program next year
Iowa’s new medical marijuana advisory board will have to make some quick decisions to help get the state’s expanded program off the ground next year, staff members warned Wednesday.
“We do have a lot of work to do in a very short timeline,” Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, told the new board.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed eight board members last week, and they met for the first time Wednesday. The board, which is mainly made up of physicians, is to make recommendations on how Iowa will expand its tiny medical marijuana program. The Legislature voted last spring to allow production and distribution of certain marijuana products to treat a range of ailments. In the past, the state allowed possession of marijuana oil for treatment of seizures in people with severe epilepsy, but didn’t allow production or distribution.
The board members are Mason City Police Capt. Mike McKelvey, who is the chairman; Clive pediatrician Ken Cheyne; Coralville psychiatrist Jill Liesveld; Creston family physician Lonny Miller; Spirit Lake pharmacist Stephen Richards; Des Moines oncologist Robert Shreck; Waukee pain-management physician Jaqueline Stoken; and Ankeny neurologist Wendy Zadeh. The governor’s office is working to fill the board’s ninth seat, which is to be filled by a gastroenterologist.
Assistant Attorney General Heather Adams, who is advising the board, urged members to study the new law allowing expansion of Iowa’s medical-marijuana program. “There’s a lot packed into this bill,” she said.
Adams also warned board members to be wary of any contacts from people interested in becoming licensed as producers or distributors of medical-marijuana products. Board members should not let themselves be put in a position of appearing to favor any potential applicants, she said. Instead, she said, any such inquiries should be routed to the health-department staff. “Really, we want to have a level playing field for anyone who wants to apply,” she said.
The new board is to advise state administrators and legislators on how to set up the new system.
Among other things, the board is to recommend whether to add any ailments to the list of conditions that would qualify Iowans for cards allowing them to possess marijuana products. Under the new law, such cards could be obtained by Iowans with AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders, or untreatable pain. Patients also could qualify if they have a terminal illness that includes severe pain, nausea or wasting.
The board also is to recommend what types, strengths and quantities of marijuana products to allow. The new law specifies that any products must have less than 3 percent of THC, the chemical that makes recreational marijuana users high. Some medical-marijuana advocates say the limit should be raised.
The new advisory board is expected to hold three full-day meetings by the end of this year. Public Health Director Gerd Clabaugh acknowledged the heavy time commitment from the busy professionals who volunteered for the board. “We appreciate the critical role you all play,” he said.