Gov. Reynolds vetoes bill to expand medical CBD program

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Gov. Kim Reynolds — photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor of Iowa

On Friday, Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed a bill that would have allowed people diagnosed with “severe or chronic pain” to participate in the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol (mCBD) Program and would have raised the cap on the active ingredient in the cannabidiol currently available to patients in the program.

Reynolds waited until 5 p.m. to issue a press release announcing her veto. Politicians frequently announce controversial actions on Friday evenings, in hopes that news of those actions will be ignored by the public because of the weekend. Three-day holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day weekend, are traditionally considered an optimal time to bury news.

The bill to modify the mCBD program, HF732, was passed by chambers of the Iowa legislature with strong bipartisan support. On Thursday, supporters of bill, including patients in the program, delivered a petition with 1,500 signatures asking Reynolds to sign the bill to the governor’s office.

The bill had been on the governor’s desk since April 27.

In her veto message published Friday evening, Reynolds focused on the provision of the bill that raised the 3 percent cap on THC, the active ingredient in mCBD. No state with a mCBD program sets a lower cap than Iowa, and there is wide agreement that raising the cap would make mCBD more effective for people in need of it.

Reynolds didn’t dispute the need to change the cap in her veto message.

“I agree that there should be some change to the three percent THC limit,” Reynolds wrote. But she said that decision should be made by the Medical Cannabidiol Board.

Last year, the board voted against changing the cap.

Reynolds could have used her line-item veto to remove the changes to the cap and allowed other provisions, such as giving people diagnosed with “severe or chronic pain” access to mCBD. Current law requires a person to be diagnosed with “untreatable pain” instead.

Iowa puts greater restrictions on who can qualify for mCBD than almost any other state with a similar program. A doctor must certify a patient has one of the following “debilitating medical conditions”:

• Cancer (with severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, cachexia or severe wasting);

• Multiple sclerosis with severe and persistent muscle spasms;

• Seizures;

• AIDS or HIV (as defined in Iowa Code, section 141A.1);

• Crohn’s disease;

• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS);

• Any terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of under one year (if the illness or its treatment produces one or more of the following: severe or chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting; cachexia or severe wasting);

• Parkinson’s disease; and

• Untreatable pain

In her veto message, Reynolds said that any changes to the mCBD program must be made in a “thoughtful and deliberate” manner “particularly because Iowa’s program is in its infancy and the body of research that analyzes the efficacy of medical CBD is limited.”

“So I look forward to working with the Legislature and the Medical Cannabidiol Board to find an evidence-based THC limit that we can work to enact along with the rest of the provisions in House File 732 that I support,” Reynolds wrote. “The health and safety of Iowans is too important for us not to get this right.”

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