Less than two years into running a medical marijuana operation in Illinois, Quad-City businessman Matt Stern now has his sights set on Iowa’s budding cannabis program.

Although the state is not yet accepting applications for dispensary licenses, Stern, who owns Nature’s Treatment of Illinois, a cannabis retail shop in Milan, wants to open up a second location in Iowa.

“We’re definitely going to apply for one of the dispensaries,” he said Tuesday. “I’d like to get the Iowa side of the Quad-Cities and be ready for the future.”

The Iowa Department of Public Health will open the bidding process in January, with the goal of awarding licenses to as many as five dispensaries in different parts of the state by April. The state also will choose up to two manufacturers before that deadline. The application fees are $7,500 for manufacturers and $5,000 for dispensaries.

Those selected must begin supplying product no later than Dec. 1, 2018.

Iowa’s newly expanded law, which took effect May 12, allows license holders to produce and sell cannabidiol, or CBD, that has a tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, content of up to 3 percent.

THC is the plant’s main psychoactive component that creates a “high.”

Stern, whose business carries CBD oil-based products, including mints and gummies, with varying levels of THC, said Iowa will need to loosen its THC cap for the program to succeed.

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CBD

A collection of cannabidiol products sold at Nature's Treatment of Illinois in Milan, a medical marijuana dispensary in Milan. 

“CBD with 3 percent THC is virtually just CBD,” said Stern, whose dispensary, one of 53 in Illinois, serves about 425 patients. “I don’t think it will be very profitable at all with that limited product, but I think the state will change their offerings as they get more mature and understand things a bit more.”

Before Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Act, only patients with epilepsy were granted access to the drug. The new regulation will expand access to nine more conditions:

• Cancer

• Multiple sclerosis (MS)

• Seizures

• AIDS or HIV

• Crohn’s disease

• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

• Terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of less than one year

• Parkinson’s disease

• Untreatable pain

As of Tuesday, 114 patients and caregivers in Iowa had received their cannabidiol cards, according to the Department of Transportation, the agency that issues the permits.

Meanwhile, there are 21 individuals with active cards in Scott County, more than any other county besides Polk, which also has 21, the DOT reports.

Moving forward, Stern said he is confident about his chances of winning one of Iowa's dispensary licenses.

"We're just more qualified than somebody who has no expertise in the area," he said, noting he is willing to partner with someone in Iowa if that's what it takes. "I think it would be wise to weigh our application a lot heavier."

To maintain a consistent brand, Stern would call his new business, Nature's Treatment of Iowa. 

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Jack Cullen is a reporter uncovering offbeat stories about people and places in the Quad-City area.