Iowa House Republican Introduces Medical Cannabis Oil Bill

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A House Republican is putting the wheels in motion for the legal sale and production of medical cannabis in the state.

In 2014, Iowa lawmakers legalized the use of medical cannabis oil for people with chronic conditions of epilepsy. In 2015, Iowa Democrats in the Senate tried - and failed -  to expand the access of medical cannabis oil for those with a list of other debilitating conditions, as well as allow the production and distribution of oil in the state. On Wednesday, House Rep. Peter Cownie (R-West Des Moines) proposed a bill that would bring cannabis oil production and sales to Iowa.

"We have a law on the books that allows you to possess it, but you can't get it," Cownie said. "So, we have a conflict. And my hope is that this can solve that. And yeah, it's a bipartisan matter; this issue - whether it's epilepsy or any other number of ailments. It's a bipartisan issue. This affects Democrats and Republicans, and my hope is to have bipartisan support for the bill."

As it stands, Iowans are legally allowed to purchase and possess medical cannabis oil to treat chronic epilepsy, but it's still illegal to produce or distribute the oil in Iowa. That means parents are having to travel to Colorado to access the oil.

But federal law still says it's illegal to transport across state lines. Many state Democrats call it unfair while many Republicans have been hesitant to support the production and distribution of the oil within the state. But Cownie is breaking from his party in the hopes to clean the system up.

The Republican representative says the finite details of the bill will be sorted through once it is assigned to a subcommittee Wednesday.  His bill would allow marijuana to be grown in the state and converted into medical cannabis oil. Doctors could prescribe the oil to patients with epilepsy, as well as other illnesses. Cownie said the bill does not allow for marijuana to be smoked and does not allow for recreational use.

Another challenge for Cownie's bill is the first legislative deadline of Feb. 19 - known as a "funnel" - that requires all bills to have passed out of a committee in order to continue throughout the remainder of the legislative session.

"We have one week to go," he said. "We've got to get this out before the funnel next week."

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