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Bill restricting consumable hemp products heads to governor’s desk

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Bill restricting consumable hemp products heads to governor’s desk

Apr 02, 2024 | 7:16 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
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Bill restricting consumable hemp products heads to governor’s desk
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Lawmakers said the bill is needed to combat "loopholes" in the existing Iowa Hemp Act. (Photo by Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

The Iowa Senate sent Gov. Kim Reynolds a bill Tuesday that tightens Iowa’s laws and regulations on consumable hemp products as the products become more widely available.

Senators also passed a bill doubling the maximum number of licenses available for medical cannabis dispensaries.

Bill adds medical cannabis licenses

Senators passed Senate File 2335 Tuesday, a bill expanding the maximum number of medical cannabidiol dispensary licenses in the state.

The bill increases the number of allowed medical cannabidiol dispensaries in the state from five to 10. While a previous version of the legislation would have restricted licensees to having a maximum of three licensed dispensaries, the Senate amended the bill to remove this requirement.

Sen. Scott Webster, R-Bettendorf, said the cap was removed as industry advocates said they would be able to offer products at reduced prices if they are allowed to operate at a larger scale.

House File 2605, passed on a 31-18 vote, would put a limit of 4 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per serving in consumable hemp products, as well as a 10 mg limit per container — in addition to requiring warning labels on such products. The bill would also impose an age limit of 21, as well as add new restrictions and penalties related to the possession, sale and manufacturing of hemp products.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, the bill’s floor manager, said updating the Iowa Hemp Act is necessary not only to regulate the growing industry but also to ensure that people are not misusing hemp products as a substitute for the state’s medical cannabidiol program.

“The medical cannabidiol program actually puts an individual with a doctor to get these products, that’s the biggest distinction,” Dawson said. “The Iowa hemp program has none of those barriers there. So if we want to protect Iowans with these products … there has to be some type of guardrails on here, to make sure that the medical cannabidiol program is the program that we can direct Iowans to when they have one of these diagnosed conditions.”

Although Democratic senators voted against the bill, none spoke in opposition to the legislation during floor debate. During House debate last month, Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale said he was concerned about “unintended consequences” of the bill’s limitations on hemp products for people who use them for medical purposes outside of the medical cannabidiol program, like those who use products containing CBD or THC while recovering from opioid addictions.

“I think we’re not hitting the nail on the head here, when it comes to being able to help Iowans that are seeking out this as an alternative to maybe taking other prescription medications, and increasing quality of life, helping them,” Forbes said.

There were not only concerns about potential medical misuse of hemp products, but about the safety or recreational use of inebriating products derived from hemp. Dawson said that the bill is “desperately needed regulation on this industry, to not only protect industry but also to protect the consumers who might indulge in these products.”

Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, said that when he worked on the original Iowa Hemp Act, passed in 2019, he knew there were “some nefarious motives behind this,” with businesses hoping to sell products not accounted for by the law.

“We found out some people could find an angle to get around things and do things that are not good for Iowans,” Shipley said. “And I just want to stand up in support of Senator Dawson’s bill to try and close some of these loopholes that even I could figure out were coming.”

In addition to the new restrictions on hemp products, lawmakers are also considering a bill that would add an excise tax on consumable hemp products. Senate Study Bill 3186, passed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, would set a 2.5% “sin tax” on the sales price of consumable hemp products. Dawson said in the March committee meeting that the measure would address current tax disparities between alcohol and hemp product retailers.