Medical cannabis dispensary opens in Iowa City

Iowa Cannabis Co. dispensary in Iowa City, Oct. 4, 2021. — Paul Brennan/Little Village

Iowa Cannabis Co. opened a medical cannabidiol dispensary in Iowa City on Friday. The dispensary, located at 382 Highway 1 W in part of the building that was home to Paul’s Discount, is one of two located in eastern Iowa. The other eastern Iowa dispensary is in Waterloo and is also owned by Iowa Cannabis Co.

The dispensary fills the void created when Have A Heart Compassionate Care closed its cannabidiol dispensary in Davenport in March 2020. The company also closed its other Iowa dispensary in Council Bluffs at the same time. Iowa Cannabis Co. is scheduled to open a Council Bluffs dispensary this week.

The Iowa Department of Public Health, which administers the state’s medical cannabis program, has also granted Iowa Cannabis Co. a manufacturing license for an Iowa City production facility to make cannabis products permitted by the program.

Iowa Cannabis Co. originally applied for a license for a manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids, but in August was granted permission to shift the location to Iowa City. Cedar Rapids had a production facility run by Iowa Relief, but it closed in 2020 after a little more than a year in operation.

The only manufacturing facility currently in operation is MedPharm’s in Des Moines.

When Iowa Reliefs’s facility closed last year, Cedar Rapids Councilmemeber Dale Todd told the Gazette, “Draconian parameters that were set on the industry’s ability to market and sell medical cannabis resulted in the demise of this business. The limited market prevented the industry from developing a sustainable business model, and everybody seemed to know that this would be the case. It’s like watching a ship sink slowly.”

“Regretfully it’ll be the people in this region who looked at it for the medical benefits it provided that will suffer the most.”

Iowa’s medical cannabis program is one of the most restrictive in the country, capping levels of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, in a patients’ cannabidiol supply to just 4.5 grams per each 90-day period, although there is an exemption for patients who are diagnosed as having a terminal illness and less than a year to live.

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

Cancer – 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.


Crohn’s disease

Chronic pain

Multiple Sclerosis with severe and persistent muscle spasms

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

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Parkinson’s disease

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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

Ulcerative colitis

Severe, intractable pediatric autism with self-injurious or aggressive behaviors

Severe, intractable autism with self-injurious or aggressive behaviors

Corticobasal Degeneration

In addition to tight state regulations, the federal government’s classification of marijuana as an illegal Schedule 1 narcotic prevents or discourages many healthcare providers from recommending cannabis treatment to patients, and schools risk losing federal funding if they administer cannabis as medication. The DEA defines Schedule 1 narcotics as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

That classification is, of course, no longer supported by medical science. It is wildly out-of-step with public opinion on both the medical and recreational use of marijuana.

The most recent Iowa Poll on the subject, published by the Des Moines Register in March, found that 78 percent of respondents favored expanding the state’s medical cannabis program and 54 percent favored legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Despite those majorities, and the success of less restrictive medical cannabis programs in other states, and the extra revenue accrued by states with recreational marijuana, it is unlikely that the Republican-controlled chambers of the Iowa Legislature or Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds will take action on such changes.

According to its site, Iowa Cannabis Co. will be selling vaporizers, tablets and creams at it new store.

“Honestly we just sell the product that the state allows us, we would sell more if we were able to,” store manager Todd Johnson told KCRG. “We’re also pushing for that, pushing for more changes to the program once there’s more research, and more people start to understand how cannabis works.”

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