The Iowa Medical Society, which is a voluntary professional organization for doctors, opposes the state’s new medical marijuana program as “unsustainable and dangerous public policy.” The group has warned doctors they could face legal or insurance problems if they participate in the program.
The program’s rules ask doctors to certify that patients have specific medical conditions allowing them to participate. Doctors will have no role in prescribing the products, which five dispensaries will sell to Iowans who have obtained special state cards.
‘We just want to try it’
Iowa allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe most standard medications, including addictive opioid painkillers, but they cannot certify patients for the medical marijuana program.
Doctors, even those who have certified, are conflicted
Patient Sioux Newberg, 68 of Ankeny, hopes to get a doctor to certify her for the new program so she can legally use marijuana products for persistent pain from fibromyalgia, slipped discs in her back and bone spurs in her neck.
Caution persists one year later
Venteicher said she has never been directly asked to sign a patient’s form, but patients have asked her if medical cannabis could help them, mostly for untreatable pain.
Richard Deming, the medical director of MercyOne Cancer Center in Des Moines, said he sees medical cannabis as something for cancer that could help manage patients’ symptoms and improve their quality of life.
“Pain is my career and pain is my practice and I’m going to do what I can to try to help patients,” Kloc said.
Venteicher is not completely ruling it out as a treatment. She said she wants to see more research and evidence, and she’ll continue to think about it for her patients. In Algona’s Kossuth County, there are nine patients who have registration cards to get medical cannabis. No doctors in this county are participating, according to data from Iowa’s Department of Public Health (though patients may see a doctor from outside of the county or their doctor could have an out-of-state address with their medical license). The closest dispensaries to Kossuth County are in Waterloo and Windsor Heights, each more than 120 miles away.
“The process is a little unusual”
Lucas Nelson, MedPharm Iowa’s general manager, peered into a room filled with developing cannabis plants at the company’s manufacturing facility in Des Moines. Some of the plants were just peeking out from their pots. The company is one of two that produce medical cannabis products in Iowa.