DES MOINES – A new Iowa business will be the state’s first legal manufacturer of medical cannabis, helping hundreds of Iowans in pain.
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced this week that it plans to license MedPharm Iowa to make cannabis oil. The CEO of MedPharm is Dr. Chris Nelson, who is also the President and CEO or Kemin Industries. Kemin is a locally-based company that globally distributes health-related products.
“We thought it would come to Iowa and we’re just extraordinarily pleased to see it has,” Nelson said.
Nelson says the plan to manufacture medical cannabis in Iowa has been in the works for years. With a new Iowa law passed this year, the dream is becoming a reality. Nelson says it is the personal stories he has heard from medical patients across Iowa that sparked his interest.
“Any time you’re able to provide a product that has a need and you’re able to fulfill that need, especially in health and welfare, it’s a reason to get up and go to work every day,” Nelson said.
Now the first Iowa company to be approved, MedPharm Iowa will be working hard every day from now to December 1, 2018. That is when state law requires the company to start supplying cannabis oil to distributors. Iowa law says there can be five such distributors, but there has been no progress on that front yet.
That December deadline is about one year away. So does MedPharm Iowa think they are going to meet the deadline?
“There’s no doubt that we’re going to have to be very dedicated over the next year,” Nelson said. “We’ve taken on large projects before and been able to deliver them successfully.”
MedPharm Iowa says they will use intellectual property from a similar company, MedPharm Colorado, to help them get the ball rolling. The cannabis plants will be grown inside a building already on Kemin’s campus in Des Moines, although MedPharm Iowa is a completely separate company. Nelson says the plants will be in a controlled chamber to ensure they are of the highest quality.
“We think that this is really a new opportunity for so many patients within the state,” Nelson said.
But there is still room for improvement. Cannabis oil has little THC, which is the component of the plant that creates a high. This past legislative session, Iowa lawmakers put a three percent limit on THC. Nelson says certain diseases need a higher level of THC to be properly treated.
“We’re certainly concerned about the overall limitation,” Nelson said. “We’re going to be working with the legislature itself as we understand these diseases better, exactly what the right concentrations that should be limited by state law.”
For now, Nelson is just focusing on what he can do to help Iowans in need.
“We’re anxious to get construction started, we will be ordering already the growth chambers this week for the plants,” Nelson said.
The immediate next step is to finalize the paperwork with the State of Iowa. The MedPharm deal will be finalized by the Medical Cannabidoil Board this Friday. Right now, more than 200 Iowans are approved to use medical cannabis.