Branstad says cannabis oil bill ‘likely’ to be signed

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said it is “very likely” that he will sign a bill to allow the use of cannabis oil to treat those with chronic epilepsy.

At a town hall meeting held in Webster City on Thursday morning, Branstad heard from a local woman, Tiffany Hoffmann, whose daughter has daily seizures, sometimes more often. She urged Branstad to sign the bill. He said that while he doesn’t have the bill yet, he is likely to sign it once he does.

“I always reserve judgment until we see it in its final form, but I think it’s very likely that we will and I really hope that it does make a difference for your daughter and the other kids,” Branstad said.

Branstad said he had spoken to other mothers of children with epilepsy at his office. He had also discussed the bill with Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley as their states have passed similar laws.

Branstad said some states, such as California, do not have adequate controls in place to prevent recreational drug users from accessing medical marijuana. The bill passed by the legislature provides a way to avoid that access, according to Branstad. The bill requires a neurologist’s recommendation to legally obtain cannabis oil. The oil also won’t be produced or distributed in Iowa.

As he considers signing the bill, Branstad said he’s mindful of the struggles of those with chronic epilepsy.

“If you have a life-threatening illness, people will do just about anything to try and help,” Branstad said.

Within the next several weeks, Branstad said he will likely sign the bill. If signed, the law would take effect July 1.

Also at the meeting, Webster City Mayor Doug Getter told Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds that Hamilton County no longer leads the state in unemployment.

“You’ll see, as you drive through the area, a lot of help wanted signs out,” Getter said. “I think from our local economy from the county level as well as from the city level, we’re inching our way back.”

Branstad said it takes a community some time to recover after the loss of a employer the size of Electrolux. Reynolds said the state has seen a lot of interest from companies interested in expanding. Branstad pointed to Cargill operations in Fort Dodge which began in November of 2013.

Branstad was also asked why anti-bullying legislation didn’t pass during the recently closed spring legislative session. He said Senate Democrats wanted to add a $1 million agency for anti-bullying programs. House Republicans didn’t want that, according to Branstad, who said they were also concerned about the responsibility that schools would bear for off-campus bullying.

However, both parties did agree to parental notifications for both students who are bullied and those who bully others, Branstad said. They also agreed to include bullying via social media in the legislation. When the Senate bill was sent to the House, and was later returned with amendments, he said it was not taken up again. Branstad said it was a “big disappointment” that the bill was not brought to him because bullying has become worse in recent years through social media.

Branstad also discussed the Home Base Iowa program. Home Base Iowa aims to help veterans find jobs in the state. It also fully exempts military pensions from the state income tax, according to Branstad and grants in-state tuition to veterans regardless of their native state.

“With the reduction in military force at the federal level, we believe that the state of Iowa is very well positioned to welcome these men and women who have superior leadership and high character to our communities,” Branstad said.

He urged lawmakers to pass a bill to create the initiative in January during his condition of the state address. Both the Senate and House passed the bill. Other news sources reported that Branstad will sign the bill on Memorial Day.