Jul 25, 2022 - News

Getting medical marijuana in Iowa is easier than you think

A photo of a marijuana vape pen.
A cannabis vape cartridge purchased from Bud & Mary's ($45). Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

On a random Tuesday in Des Moines, I got approved for Iowa's medical cannabidiol program and was able to get marijuana all in under six hours.

Driving the news: I had no idea how easy it was to get medical cannabis in Iowa and I imagine most people don't as well.

  • Iowa has one of the country's stricter recreational weed laws. But getting approved for the medical program was simple, fast and I dealt with little bureaucracy.

Catch up fast: In 2020, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law that greatly expanded access to Iowa's medical cannabidiol program, said Lucas Nelson, the president of Bud & Mary's, formerly known as MedPharm Iowa.

  • It removed a cap on THC in products, the chemical that makes you feel "high," allowing Bud & Mary's to expand to vape products.
  • It also expanded qualifying conditions to enroll in the program, including PTSD and chronic pain, the program most commonly cited ailment now.

What they're saying: "The accessibility has really, really improved," Nelson said.

Annual data via Iowa Department of Public Health; Chart: Axios Visuals
Annual data via Iowa Department of Public Health; Chart: Axios Visuals

State of play: I started by looking through the recommended clinics on Bud & Mary's site. Many offered tele-health appointments and specialized in referrals for the state's program. For $100, I made an appointment with "Green Iowa Clinic" and spoke with an advanced nurse practitioner based in Atlantic over video chat the next day.

  • In five minutes, I shared my chronic pain ailment (post-thrombotic syndrome from a blood clot), got advised on mixing cannabis with my existing medications, and then got my referral via email.
  • Four hours later, after submitting an online application and another $100 to the Iowa Department of Public Health, I was approved and sent a digital card.
  • One hour later: I filled out some paperwork at Bud & Mary's in Windsor Heights, consulted with the staff there, and away I left with a vape cartridge similar to what you can get in Illinois or Colorado.

💭 Our thought bubble: Even if the medical program is easier to access, it's important to remember the state remains one of the worst in the nation for racial disparities in marijuana arrests.

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