A spokesman for the company that won approval to be the first to produce medical marijuana products for sale in the state says their biggest obstacle so far has been getting the medical community to talk with them.
Medpharm Iowa spokesman Lucas Nelson says they are currently holding informational meetings around the state for patients and others. “Unfortunately, too many physicians, nurses — and really the medical community at large — too many of them have been unwilling to meet with us or really anyone tied with this industry. Unwilling to talk about it and learn more about it,” Nelson says.
Iowans who want to use medical marijuana need a referral from a physician to obtain a card from the state health department to allow them to buy the products. He says he’s gotten a lot of emails from people who say their doctor won’t even consider it as an option. “Obviously that ultimately hurts the patients who can’t find doctors to certify their condition,” he says.
Nelson says they want to work with doctors and patients. “We have said in all of our outreach to the big systems and the small clinics and pretty much everyone in between, medical organizations, everyone you can imagine throughout the state. What we have said is, look we are not here to tell you that this will work for every single patient — or even most patients necessarily. That’s up to you as the medical providers to decide with your patient,” according to Nelson.
Medpharm is a subsidiary of Kemin Industries, which is based in Des Moines and makes a variety of products for human and animal food. Nelson is a lawyer for the company and says they have been trying to answer any questions they get about the medical marijuana program.
“We do think it is important that you understand what the program is, how it works, what your role is as a physician. Understanding where your liability is and isn’t,” Nelson says. “We’ve heard from a couple of medical community members that this illegal for them to do and there is no protection. That isn’t true, it’s built right into the code. Making sure that the medical community is aware of that.”
He says they are also trying to answer any questions that the general public has about the issue. “One of the things we’ve noticed is that not enough people across the state are really aware of this program and have the education about it that we think needed to be out there,” Nelson says.
Nelson says another part of the forums is listening. “Giving people a chance to voice concerns, ask questions, hear comments, things they are worried about. Actually, we’ve had some great questions presented. We’ve been able to work with the Department of Public Health on how we’ve actually answered those,” Nelson says.
The company can begin selling products on December 1st and he says they want to be sure everyone finds out the things they need to know before the doors open. But, he says they still are hoping to get better help from doctors.
“Even if we had a million people in this state that knew about it and were eligible and ready to sign up — if they can’t find a doctor to certify them — then there’s really nothing they can do,” Nelson explains. MedPharm Iowa built a production facility in Des Moines and owns dispensaries in Sioux City and Windsor Heights. There will be other dispensaries in Council Bluffs, Waterloo and Davenport.