Iowa Medicinal Cannabis Program Statistics

Medicinal cannabis in Iowa
Image: IDPH & Medpharm Iowa

It’s very early days for the U.S state of Iowa’s “medicinal cannabidiol” program, but its Department of Health has released some initial statistics.

In 2017, then-Governor Terry Branstad signed House File 524 into law, expanding Iowa’s previous and very restricted program. Under the revamped scheme, 15 conditions qualified – originally it was limited to managing/treating intractable epilepsy.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this month that the state’s five dispensaries opened, offering three types of medical CBD (gel capsules, tincture and cream) to qualifying Iowans that held a valid patient or caregiver registration card.

Five dispensaries isn’t a huge number for a state with a population of more than three million, but for now patient numbers continue to be low. The fact that THC is also legal to a degree (preparations containing 3% or less) is a point of confusion given the program’s name as some potential patients that could benefit from THC may not be aware of this.

According to the most recently published statistics from the Department of Health, as at the end of November just 663 Iowans held registration cards. 325 doctors had certified patients at the end of last month, but it seems many of the thousands of doctors in the state are still hesitant to get on board.

To gain access to CBD, patients must first download a health care practitioner certification form, then have their physician complete it. A registration form then needs to be filled out by the patient and submitted. If accepted, the registration card is then picked up from a state drivers license station.

The most common qualifying condition so far has been untreatable pain (47%), followed by cancer with severe or chronic pain (13%) and multiple sclerosis and seizures – both at 11%.  Other qualifying conditions include Crohn’s disease, AIDS or HIV, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease. Also included is any terminal illness where there is a life expectancy of under one year – but only if the condition or treatment of it results in severe or chronic pain, nausea, severe vomiting or severe wasting. Ulcerative colitis, similar to Crohn’s disease, will also be added to the list.

More on the statistics can be viewed here.

So far, the state only has a single manufacturer of CBD/THC products – MedPharm Iowa – but legislation allows for two. Medpharm certainly won’t want to be seeing competition anytime soon – the company has reportedly commented that it has little to no chance of surviving in the long-term under the program’s current structure.