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House Republicans discuss medical cannabis

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DES MOINES | Republican state lawmakers spent hours Wednesday night discussing a proposal to expand Iowa’s limited medical cannabis law, but party leaders on Thursday gave little indication as to whether the proposal will receive further consideration this year.

And a key Democratic legislator said that even if Republicans approve their bill, Democrats in the Senate will alter it to more closely match theirs, making full legislative approval even more challenging this session.

In a closed-door meeting Wednesday night, Republican members of the Iowa House discussed a proposal from one of their members to permit 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.

On the heels of that discussion, House Republican leaders said Thursday they have not determined whether the proposal will receive further consideration this year.

“We’re having a good discussion about it, and I don’t think we’ve reached an outcome,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said. When asked whether the proposal will get another hearing this year, Upmeyer said, “I don’t know the answer to that today.”

When asked what would lead her to advance the proposal or deem it unfit for passage, Upmeyer said “consensus” among House Republicans. She and Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, declined to elaborate.

“There’s not a mathematical formula for that,” Hagenow said. “It will come as no surprise that we have a wide range of opinions on the matter. It’s very healthy for us to talk through that, resolve questions and interact with each other. That’s how we work. We’re collaborative, and we’ll continue to have those conversations.”

Those who would use cannabidiol to treat themselves or their children say Iowa’s current law is largely useless. Iowans may possess cannabidiol and use it to treat people who suffer from epileptic seizures, but they must acquire the product from other states, few of which sell to non-residents.

Twenty-three states have medical cannabis programs similar to the ones being proposed in Iowa, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, who authored the House proposal, said he remains hopeful something will get done this year.

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