Iowa Hoping Cannabis Dispensaries Reach Statewide

Photo Credit: Miami Herald

State officials said Friday they hope to get geographical diversity from companies seeking permission to dispense medical cannabis when they go out for bids next week under Iowa’s expanded medical marijuana law.

“We want to make sure that patients throughout the state have access to the product, so we’ll be looking at geography and that sort of thing as well as the number of applications that come in and where they are going to come in from,” Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of state Department of Public Health, told members of the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board.

Applicants responding to the state’s request for proposals have until March 8 to respond.

Iowa health officials aim to post its notice of intent to award licenses for up to five medical cannabis dispensaries by March 30, she said.

Based upon data of patients and primary caregivers registered under Iowa’s current limited medical cannabis program, Reisetter said it’s not surprising the most participants are in Iowa’s most-populous areas.

But, she said, there is concern people seeking future access to the new products being manufactured and distributed in Iowa not have to drive great distances to buy them.

State public health officials recently issued a cannabidiol manufacturing license to MedPharm Iowa, a company affiliated with the Des Moines-based Kemin ingredient firm, to grow marijuana and make medical cannabis products available by Dec. 1 to the selected dispensaries.

Cannabidiol is a chemical found in cannabis plants that can be used to make products, such as oils, to treat medical conditions.

MedPharm Iowa was the only company to apply for a manufacturer’s license, which carries an annual fee of $150,000 to $200,000, but Reisetter said the state likely will seek a second manufacturing facility later this spring.

Prospective dispensaries will have to put up significant money for their license, with fees estimated in the range of $120,000 or so per year along with a $7,500 application fee and $10,000 bond for each background investigation of company owners.

The manufacturing license comes out of an agreement last legislative session to expand Iowa’s limited medical cannabis program.

Last May, then-Gov. Terry Branstad signed a law calling for up to two state-licensed medical cannabis manufacturers. The new law also expanded the illnesses patients with a doctor’s prescription could treat with medical cannabis — going from just chronic epilepsy to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or HIV and others.

Kemin officials said Friday they are in the initial phases of “ramping up” their facility on Des Moines’ south side and are adding “vaporization” products to go along with tinctures, creams, soft gels, suppositories and inhalers that allow patients to get customized therapies.

Iowa’s law does not allow marijuana products in smokable or edible forms and caps at 3 percent the allowable level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which creates dosage and market restrictions that manufacturers and users would like to see modified.