On May 12, 2017, Gov. Terry Branstad signed HB 524 into law. The law will allow certain patients in the state to use, possess, and access low-THC cannabis oil with their doctor’s authorization. A 2014 law only gave patients with seizure disorders a defense to prosecution for use of this medicine. The 2017 law expands the conditions that qualify for low-THC oils, prevents prosecutions (not just convictions), and will allow in-state access to the cannabis oil by December 1, 2018.

Qualifying conditions: Cancer, if the underlying condition or treatment produces severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting syndrome; multiple sclerosis with severe and persistent muscle spasms; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; AIDS or HIV; Crohn’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; any terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of under one year, and if the illness or its treatment produces severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting syndrome; Parkinson’s disease; and untreatable pain, meaning pain whose cause cannot be removed by general accepted medical practice and the full range of pain management modalities has been used without success or with intolerable side effects.

Written certifications: In order to enroll in the program, patients must obtain a written certification from their doctor, meaning a physician licensed to practice medicine and surgery or osteopathic medicine and surgery. The doctor must be a patient’s primary care provider. Patients must be permanent residents of the state. Patients under 18 can only enroll in the program through their caregivers.

Caregivers: Under the program, caregivers can enroll to help patients pick up and use the oil. Caregivers must be residents of Iowa or a bordering state to Iowa and at least 18 years of age. The patients’ doctors must designate them as a necessary caretaker.

Registration card fees: Card fees for patients are set at $100. However, if the patient receives social security disability benefits, supplemental security insurance payments, or is enrolled in a medical assistance program, the fee is $25. Caregiver cards are $25.

Medical cannabidiol board powers: A medical cannabidiol board has the power to add new conditions to the state program. This board also makes recommendations to the General Assembly about increasing the amount of THC allowed under the program, but only the legislature itself could change the cap.

Business licenses: Up to two manufacturer licenses will be issued under the proposed law, and these manufacturers must begin supplying cannabidiol to dispensaries by December 1, 2018. Up to five dispensary licenses will be issued in the state; they must be open to patients by December 1, 2018. These dispensaries will be located throughout the state depending on geographic need. Additionally, the program permits the Department of Health to certify two out-of-state dispensaries where Iowa patients can make purchases (should those states allow this).

Cannabis oil limits: THC is capped at three percent. Smoking is not permitted.

The Department of Health will determine what quantity of cannabidiol patients and caregivers will be permitted to possess.

Out-of-state reciprocity: Patients visiting Iowa from another state who are registered with a cannabidiol program in their home state can possess and consume cannabis in Iowa, but they are not permitted to make purchases. The law allows Iowa patients to register to obtain the oil in Minnesota. However, Minnesota’s medical cannabis program does not currently permit this.