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First medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Iowa

Cannabis oil.Elroi/

WATERLOO, Iowa — The products that will be available to certified patients Saturday when medical marijuana dispensaries open for the first time in Iowa will shake up traditional ideas about the herb and how it is consumed, a state health official said.

Dispensaries are set to open in Council Bluffs, Davenport, Sioux City, Windsor Heights, and Waterloo. MedPharm is manufacturing all of the state’s legal marijuana products, which include capsules, tinctures, and creams.

“I think the biggest thing that people should realize, and one of the things that’s kind of confusing, is that the products available in these dispensaries are not what most people think about when they think about marijuana — there won’t be smoking products, there won’t be joints, there won’t be edibles,” said Sarah Reisetter, the deputy director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.


The 2017 Medical Cannabidiol Act allows the use of cannabidiol that has no more than 3 percent THC, the compound in marijuana that causes a high. The law allows for up to two in-state marijuana growers and processors, which can then distribute to five state-approved dispensaries.

Iowa doctors can certify patients with one of several debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures, HIV, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease. Patients who are certified can then go to one of the five dispensaries to receive cannabidiol products.

“The physician is not ‘prescribing’ medical cannabidiol in the traditional sense,” Reisetter said.

Around 325 of the state’s 7,000 doctors have certified almost 500 patients as of Nov. 16, according to the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Medical Cannabidiol.

Reisetter said the state’s medical cannabidiol board has a “compassionate use” goal and will periodically update the law and approved conditions in conjunction with the Iowa Board of Medicine.