Governor Terry Branstad

Governor Terry Branstad this morning said it is “likely” he will approve a bill that expands Iowa’s medical marijuana law.

“This was just worked out in the closing hours of the session, so we’re going to carefully review it, but I think this is certainly a subject that has a lot of interest and support,” Branstad told reporters during his weekly news conference. “…I’m pleased that the legislature was able to reach a consensus on this difficult and contentious issue.”

Iowa’s current law which decriminalized possession of cannabis oil for treatment of chronic epilepsy expires June 30. The bill that passed the legislature early Saturday morning would sanction operations to grow marijuana, produce cannabis oil and dispense it in Iowa. Iowa doctors could prescribe cannabis oil for treatment of a wider range of 15 chronic and debilitating conditions if Branstad signs the bill into law.

“I have a responsibility to diligent review and consider all aspects and that’s what I do with every bill,” Branstad said. “But certainly it’s something that I’m pleased was approved and I’m very hopeful that we don’t find any major problems, so I think it’s likely that I will sign it.”

AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference, 33:00

Supporters of the bill say it will take up to a year and a half to establish the state-sanctioned operations that will produce the cannabis oil for Iowa patients. Until then, Iowans who get an Iowa doctor’s recommendation for cannabis oil will still have to get it from out-of-state.

Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, has been a long-time advocate of medical marijuana. He’s no fan of the final plan that cleared the legislature, especially the bill’s limits on TCH content. According to Bolkcom, that makes the cannabis oil that will be available like “baby aspirin.”

“We continue to ignore the pleas of people in our state that have illnesses that none of us would want and we’re going to claim victory,” Bolkcom said Saturday.

Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, worked on the issue, too, and admits the senate’s original, broader approach “was better.”

“I think it’s time to set aside pride of authorship and focus on the accomplishment of bipartisanship,” Schneider said. “I think that’s a fitting way to end this legislative session.”

Schneider and Bolkcom made their comments at about seven o’clock Saturday morning. The medical marijuana bill was the final sticking point to be resolved before the 2016 legislative session concluded at 7:16 a.m. Saturday.