Iowans with an Iowa neurologist’s clearance to take cannabis oil to treat chronic epilepsy will go to the Iowa DOT to get a card which will shield them from drug possession charges in Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has unveiled its proposed rules for implementing the new state law passed by legislators and the governor this spring. Deborah Thompson, the legislative liason for the department, says while her agency will process the paperwork and determine who is eligible, the DOT will hand out the cards because there’s a DOT licensing outlet in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.
“To bring people that have this debilitating disease to Des Moines may cause more headaches than it’s worth,” Thompson says. “They have a system also that enables them to connect with law enforcement and the law enforcement folks can, the way they would with any of our IDs, drivers licenses, they have a connection to the DOT’s system that allows them to see more details than a card provides for.”
The cards can be issued to adults who have an Iowa neurologist’s recommendation to use cannabis oil to treat their “intractable” epilepsy. The parents or guardians of children with the condition can also apply for the card. Thompson says the new law was fairly specific about what hoops were required to qualify for the cards and her agency’s proposed rules follow those guidelines, including a requirement that other treatment options have been tried first before opting for cannabis oil.
“The neurologist will then send the completed application, including the written recommendation, directly to the Department of Public,” Thompson says. “We thought this would marginalize the opportunity for fraudulent behaviors if we got it directly from the neurologist’s office.”
Staff in the Iowa Department of Public Health will review the applicant, then notify the DOT if it has been approved and a card may be issued. There is no Iowa site that dispenses the cannabis oil, so caregivers will have to go out of state to get the product.
The rules were discussed during Wednesday’s Iowa Board of Health meeting in Iowa City. The board will vote on the rules at its September meeting. A legislative committee will also have a chance to review the rules before they take effect.