Medical Marijuana Expansion, E-Verify Mandate Bills Both Advance Through Funnel Week

DES MOINES, Iowa -- As the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican State Sen. Brad Zaun says things are about to get really busy.

“The Judiciary Committee is the busiest, and it's always been the busiest committee. I certainly have a lot of people contacting me, saying 'please run this bill,’” said Zaun.

It is currently funnel week, and that means a rash of bills being examined, voted on, and either sent forward or killed for the session.

One bill that heads to the full Senate would require employers big and small to use E-Verify for all new hires. The website is used to make sure employees are legal to hire.

“What they tell us is that if an employer is known to be using E-Verify, they don’t even get applications from people who wouldn't pass who are not in the country legally,” said the bill's author, Republican Sen. Julian Garrett.

The bill passed 11-4 on party lines. Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids said he supported the idea behind the bill, but voted against passage, calling it "sloppy."

“It also forces employers even if they personally know the employees they're hiring, so you might have a business where you're hiring a niece or a nephew, to use a system that routinely wrongly flags thousands of U.S.citizens every year,” said Hogg.

Meanwhile, Zaun saw one of his bills pass, a vast expansion to the state's medical marijuana program.

“The bottom line here is to make this available to more Iowans who are hurting,” Zaun said.

The bill would remove the limit of THC that producers can put in each dose, allow for more dispensaries in the state, and mandate Iowa's Medical Cannabidiol Board to include PTSD on the list of qualifying conditions. Additionally, it would give the board the power add any condition a doctor believes medical marijuana would aid.

“This is a step to help people that are in pain, who are in need, who have chronic conditions. I think education is so important and not only have legislators been educated, but certainly the general public has,” said Zaun.

Zaun also had a bill move through to the full Senate which would establish a pilot needle exchange program in five communities across the state. After five years, the selected communities would report back on how effective the program was at stopping the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV.

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