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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

No medical marijuana dispensary proposed for Corridor

Council Bluffs, Davenport, Windsor Heights, Waterloo and Sioux City picked for dispensary locations
By Erin Jordan, The Gazette | Mar 28, 2018

The Corridor will not get a medical marijuana dispensary under a notice posted Tuesday by state health officials.

The Iowa Department of Public Health plans to issue licenses for dispensaries in Council Bluffs, Davenport, Waterloo, Windsor Heights and Sioux City — leaving qualifying Corridor patients and caregivers to drive about an hour to get the medication.

“We are dumbfounded and shocked,” said Dale Todd, a Cedar Rapids City Council member who pushed for medical marijuana legislation as a member of the Iowa Epilepsy Foundation. “The second-largest population base in Iowa is being ignored and deprived of its ability to get doctor-prescribed medication.”

Todd, whose 18-year-old son, Adam, has a rare form of epilepsy, said his family would be able to make the drive to Waterloo for medical marijuana products, but that’s not feasible for all patients.

“Some people with complicated medical conditions can’t even get driver’s licenses,” he said. “It’s beyond imagination why this decision was made.”

Sarah Reisetter, the deputy public health director, said the five sites were chosen to “ensure geographic distribution” as required by law.

“Sioux City and Council Bluffs were determined necessary to provide access to patients on the western side of the state,” she said in an email. “Similarly, the Des Moines metro area was determined necessary for central Iowa and Davenport was determined necessary for Eastern Iowa. That left one license available for Iowa City/ Coralville/ Cedar Rapids/ Waterloo. Looking at the map, Waterloo was the location determined to provide the best geographical distribution of dispensary locations throughout the state.”

Applications were scored by a team of reviewers based on 13 criteria that included operating documents (150 points), ownership and financial structure (125 points), dispensing (125 points), business overview and plan (100 points) and personnel background and training (100 points) for a maximum 1,000 points.

Recipients of the licenses are MedPharm Iowa for dispensaries in Windsor Heights, a Des Moines suburb, and Sioux City; Heart Compassion Care in Council Bluffs and Davenport; and Iowa Cannabis Company in Waterloo.

These applicants had until 9 a.m. Wednesday to accept the licenses. If they don’t accept, the state could consider awarding a license to one of 10 other applications, including one each for Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Iowa City, that met the 600-point minimum score required.

Five applications did not meet the minimum score, the state reported.

Because Iowa is allowed only five dispensary licenses under the law, the only way another site could be chosen is if the law is changed or one of the operators drops its license or the license is revoked by the state, Reisetter said. Dispensaries are required to pay annual fees of $75,000 to $125,000.

MedPharm Iowa, chosen Dec. 1 as the state’s only medical marijuana manufacturer, said Tuesday it is thrilled to be selected for two Iowa dispensary sites as well.

“As the state’s only medical cannabidiol manufacturer, operating dispensaries will give us access to patients so we can continue to innovate our products to improve the quality of life for those seeking natural, scientifically proven solutions to debilitating medical conditions,” said MedPharm owner Chris Nelson in a statement.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said earlier this month opening a medical marijuana dispensary in the city was a “no brainer.”

“We are the second largest city in Iowa. Clearly we are a medical hub. It just made sense, if it’s legal, and we are going to have dispensaries around the state, it made sense we’d have one here for the benefit of people in Cedar Rapids and our area,” Hart said in early March.

Coralville Mayor John Lundell wrote in favor of applications from MedPharm and Iowa Cannabis Company and said Tuesday he was surprised no Corridor sites were chosen.

“I thought for sure between Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Coralville, one of them would be selected,” he said.

Iowa expanded its medical marijuana law in 2017 to allow for use beyond chronic epilepsy to illnesses including cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDs or HIV and others.

Patients must receive registration cards from the state to be eligible to purchase medical marijuana products, which are expected to go on sale Dec. 1.

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