Iowans say new House bill repealing end date of medical cannabidiol program isn't enough

A panel of lawmakers in the Iowa House have advanced a bill that would repeal the sunset date for the current Medical Cannabidiol Act and outline guidelines for cannabis-based drugs that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy.

However, several medical cannabis advocates say this proposal won't benefit the most vulnerable of Iowans.

Erin Miller told a panel of three lawmakers during Tuesday's subcommittee meeting that she's worried her about her son, Abram Miller, who was born with a rare gene mutation.

"It is characterized by brain abnormalities, seizures, autism, absent speech, aggressive self harming behaviors and an intellectual disability," she said.

Right now, her son is covered under the current medical cannabis program and she and her husband obtain cannabis oil from Colorado to help him. He's now more than 600 days seizure free and has been weened off of pharmaceuticals. But by crossing state lines to get the drug, they're technically violating federal law.

"Please don't force us to choose between being criminals and maintaining my son's quality of life," Miller said.

House Study Bill 164 would allow the use of cannabis-based epilepsy drugs like Epidiolex once they are approved by the FDA.

"Please note that children like my son don't qualify for Epidiolex," Miller said.

Miller, along with several other parents, told legislators their children may not be able to access the drug due to many issues, such as insurance companies not wanting to cover it or possible health risks. Some also expressed concern over children they know doing poorly on the clinical trials for Epidiolex.

"I feel that you are letting us down once again by not allowing for cannabis to be grown, processed and distributed in Iowa," Kim Novy, a mother from Altoona, said. "My daughters did not respond to CBD only medication. They are in need of cannabis that includes cannabinoids from the entire cannabis plant."

State Rep. Jarad Klein, R - Keota, said the comprehensive bill to expand access to medical cannabis oil brought forth concern from House Republicans. State Rep. Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield and chair of the House Public Safety Committee said he only got three votes in support of the bill, which is why he didn't move it out of full committee last week.

But Klein hopes this bill will get more support and move the conversation of how to help Iowans dependent on cannabis oil forward.

"Is this a perfect bill? No," he said. "Absolutely not. In fact, in seven years I've never had a perfect bill I voted on -- but a lot of good bills. This is a good bill. I do not want to make the perfect the enemy of good."

State Sen. Brad Zaun, R - Urbandale, has also filed a bill in the Senate to expand medical cannabis access. It would allow the growth and distribution of cannabis oil in state and also reclassifies marijuana as a schedule II drug, allowing physicians to prescribe it for medicinal purposes.

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