Rules approved for cannabis oil, will start Jan. 30

DES MOINES — A legislative panel on Tuesday cleared state rules on registration cards that will allow possession of marijuana-derived cannabis oil for medical treatment of intractable epilepsy.

The new rules take effect Jan. 30.

However, Deborah Thompson, policy adviser for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said her agency and the state Department of Transportation may not be in a position to actually issue the photo ID registration cards until a later “launch” date once the rules have taken effect.

The cards are part of a new state law that allows very limited access to medical cannabidiol. State officials are treating the cards as a “priority project” as they push for a launch date to physically issue the cards.

“We just want to make sure that all of the pieces are there,” Thompson said. “I would like to think we’ll know closer to the date what everything looks like.”

It is likely that the health agency will post an application form online in advance of the card issuance, so patients and parents of minor patients can submit the pertinent information needed from a licensed neurologist to qualify. The state-issued registration card would provide an affirmative defense against prosecution to Iowans possessing no more than 32 ounces of the cannabidiol.

“It’s been a collaborative effort based on wanting to do right by these families,” Thompson said of the process, which is new to many states that are adopting medical marijuana laws. “All of the states are learning together. We all have different laws, even if we have the same goal.”

However, the bigger issue for families of epileptic patients in Iowa is getting access to a product that is expensive and only available in a limited number of places due to a host of legal hurdles.

Last May Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law Senate File 236, which granted special provisions for permanent Iowa residents 18 years of age or older, with a written recommendation from a neurologist, to possess and/or use cannabidiol as a medical treatment to alleviate symptoms of intractable epilepsy, if there are no other satisfactory treatment options.

Last month members of a legislative study panel recommended Iowa lawmakers next session develop a program to produce, process and dispense medical marijuana to address shortcomings in a new state law regarding access and standards to cannabis oil.

House and Senate committee members also called for the federal government and Iowa’s Board of Pharmacy to consider reclassifying marijuana as a scheduled II controlled substance that would lessen criminal penalties and allow doctors to prescribe marijuana-derived medications.

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