DES MOINES — More than 100 city and county elected officials signed a letter to state lawmakers urging them to expand Iowa’s limited medical cannabis program.
The letter, released Wednesday to the media, urges legislators to “pass a bill that will allow for medical cannabis to be produced, distributed and possessed in Iowa for debilitating medical conditions.”
Among the elected officials who signed the letter were Davenport City Council members Maria Dickmann, Ray Ambrose, Bill Boom and Jason Gordon; Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson; and Jackson County Supervisor Larry "Buck" Koos.
“We believe comprehensive legislation will provide guidance to local officials so we can assist our most vulnerable citizens,” the letter says. “We believe this will happen by bringing those citizens out of the legal shadows and deter illegal enterprises from taking advantage of them.”
The local officials joined other advocates pressing the state to legalize the production and dispensation of cannabidiol, an oil byproduct of the marijuana plant that has been found in many cases to reduce seizures caused by ailments such as epilepsy.
Current Iowa law permits residents to possess and use cannabidiol to treat epileptic seizures, but it does not provide a way for residents to acquire the product. Most other states that produce cannabidiol do not sell to non-residents.
Critics say those legal hurdles make Iowa’s cannabidiol law mostly useless.
The Democratic-led Iowa Senate has passed legislation expanding the state’s cannabidiol program. A House Republican bill, which is similar but does not cover as many ailments as the Senate version, passed through a committee, but no action has been taken in weeks.
In a statement, Windsor Heights mayor Diana Willits referred to a recent Des Moines Register/Iowa Poll that showed more than three-fourths of Iowans support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
“We are elected representatives, too, and we know how important the constituent voice is when weighing important decisions for our communities,” Willits said. “We feel it is important as our communities’ representatives to speak out on this issue, especially considering the lack of action on this bill over the last month.”
Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello, who chairs the committee through which the House bill must pass, said he is waiting for orders from leadership.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said last week no decision has been made on the bill.
Gov. Terry Branstad this week said he is willing to work with lawmakers and consider legislation that would expand the state’s cannabidiol program.
An earlier letter of support for an expanded cannabidiol program was signed by nearly 100 Iowa business leaders.
“This issue has gained an incredible amount of support from all sectors of Iowa," said Steve Gaer, mayor of West Des Moines and co-founder of a group advocating for an expanded cannabidiol program. He also is the father of a daughter with epilepsy. “This latest letter of support demonstrates that Iowa’s local officials know the importance of providing their communities with a safe, legal and accessible solution around medical cannabis.”