Seeing green

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

End of hemp prohibition comes as cannabidiol becomes more prominent

Set to go into effect Jan. 1, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 — alternatively known as the farm bill — includes new policies which will legalize industrial hemp and “make hemp producers eligible for the federal crop insurance program.” The law differentiates hemp from the similar cannabis plant and schedule I substance, marijuana, defining hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, ... with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” Hemp has been utilized for a wide variety of goods ranging from rope to foods but has been illegal in the United States since 1937.

One byproduct of industrial hemp is cannabidiol, which has recently been legalized in the state solely for medical purposes. Those who suffer from specific types of cancer, Crohn’s disease, ALS, Parkinson’s, HIV and untreatable pain may qualify for medical cannabidiol — which comes in a variety of forms ranging from tablets to ointments — through their primary physician. Cannabidiol cannot be smoked or cooked into food.

“House File 524, enacted last year, allows persons diagnosed with specific medical conditions to qualify for a Medical Cannabidiol Registration Card and to possess medical cannabidiol in the state,” Iowa House District 2 Rep. Megan Jones, R-Sioux Rapids, said. “In working with many advocates for this legislation, these products have a lot of potential and I hope Iowans who face these horrific conditions are able to find relief.”

The change has recently led to some confusion locally and across the state for individuals and businesses interested in cannabidiol. Jones and Spencer Chief of Police Mark Warburton stressed there are only five locations in the state which have been issued Medical Canabidiol Dispensary Licenses by the Iowa Department of Public Health and can legally distribute medical cannabidiol. The five dispensaries, which opened for business at the beginning of December, include Have a Heart Compassion Care of Council Bluffs and Davenport, Iowa Cannabis Company Inc. of Waterloo and MedPharm Iowa LLC of Windsor Heights and Sioux City.

“This is all new for the state of Iowa,” Warburton said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there and people trying to sell or distribute this that don’t have the licenses or privilege to do that. We’ve seen these products anywhere from gas stations to other types of convenience stores, they need to buy them from the dispensaries themselves. ... Sometimes the packaging is deceiving as well, it’ll say ‘100 percent legal’ and that’s simply not the case.”

The police chief said those in possession of the substance without a patient card and those selling the substance without a dispensary license from the IDPH are still in violation of the law.

“They can face some charges and we’d hate for it to come to that,” Warburton said. “We can seize the products, there’s a lot of discretion on a case-by-case basis. This is new for Iowa, we want people to be able to take advantage of this if they want, but do it legally.”

Jones said, “The cannabidiol patient card costs $100 per year, unless the patient is receiving social security disability benefits, supplemental security insurance payments or is enrolled in a medical assistance program,” which would reduce the fee to $25. More information is available at

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