New Iowa law criminalizes life-saving treatments for kids

Erin Farquhar is the mother of Abram Miller, who relies on consumable hemp products to control seizures.

This year, the Iowa legislature approved and Governor Kim Reynolds signed House File 2605, placing new regulations on Iowa’s CBD, or consumable hemp, industry. Proponents described the law as an effort to limit the amount of THC in the intoxicating products being sold in our state to protect kids, but that is not what the bill does.  

Unfortunately, HF 2605 was written in a way that has very far-reaching consequences. It does the opposite of what the bill proponents said by banning access to nonintoxicating consumable hemp products used for medical purposes and maintaining access to intoxicating products, like THC infused drinks, used largely recreationally.  

The bill even makes it illegal for me to provide my son the consumable hemp medication he has used for the past nine years to remain seizure-free.   

My son Abram (11) has been using full-spectrum consumable hemp since 2015. He was diagnosed with epilepsy before his first birthday in 2013. When he was three years old, we learned he has an extremely rare genetic disorder affecting fewer than 100 boys worldwide. By age five, he had a diagnosis of autism with severe self-harm and aggression.   

Abram’s story was a powerful argument for passing a better medical cannabidiol bill several years ago to support him and his medical needs. We have gone in front of the Medical Cannabidiol Board and the Iowa Board of Medicine to help provide access to this medicine for children like Abram who have autism, intellectual disabilities, or who suffer from self-harm and aggression.   

During that time, some legislators encouraged us to continue to drive to Colorado to obtain his CBD  tincture  (consumable hemp) and his THC  tinctures , which he  requires to help him with his severe self-harm and aggression. We have used a consumable hemp tincture called Haleigh’s Hope since 2015.

HF 2605 takes away kids’ access to CBD products, the same products some legislators advised people to use when we were advocating for Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Program from the very start nearly, a decade ago. 

The law places a cap on THC per container, which prohibits all non-psychoactive full-spectrum hemp products like Haleigh’s Hope. Haleigh’s Hope is a popular brand name used by autism and epilepsy families like mine. We use a 20:1 tincture which is 20mg CBD to 1mg hemp-derived THC per serving, with 60 doses per bottle. Each bottle has 1200mg of CBD  and  60mg THC.   

Based on the language in this bill, I cannot legally purchase this bottle of full-spectrum consumable hemp, because it contains more than 10 mg of THC in the bottle! This product is sold in all 50 states with no restrictions and is a non-psychoactive consumable hemp product. 

 Even worse, HF 2605 makes it a crime for my husband and I to administer consumable hemp products to my son. Since he was 3 years old, we have been giving him the same product to treat his seizures, and now it will be illegal in Iowa. It also prohibits my son from even being able to consume or possess any hemp product and requires local law enforcement to take “all measures necessary” to ensure consumable hemp is not introduced into my son’s body. 

Where are my freedoms, and why can’t I protect and care for my child? 

This law will impact me and could result in serious harm to myself and my son. I feel terrible for the countless other families and many thousands of other Iowans who rely on getting these safe and legal products from local businesses, which provide education and assistance to families who need nonintoxicating CBD products. HF 2605 harms Iowa kids!

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: House File 2605 passed by 79 votes to 16 in the House (roll call) and 31 votes to 18 in the Senate (roll call).

When Governor Reynolds signed the bill, she said in a written statement, “we’ve taken steps to ensure that children who are resistant to medications and suffer from seizures and other medical conditions continue to have access to consumable hemp alternatives for relief.”

The governor’s office did not respond to my follow-up questions about steps taken. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services referred me to this page on the agency’s website, which asserts HHS won’t be able to stop people from buying online or in other states. 

The same page also says, “Patients who possess these forms will have an affirmative defense for prosecution for possession, provided they are registered card holders with the medical cannabis program.”

Asked to respond to that statement, Erin Farquhar told me,

I think this puts thousands of Iowa families in direct harm. The Medical Cannabidiol program only allows for very specific conditions. And although we personally have and do participate by being cardholders over the years, it is very expensive. When ordering from CO, I am able to get a 2oz bottle of Haleigh’s Hope for $150 through their financial aid program. Our dispensary does not offer discounts for low income families and in comparison, I would have to spend $520/month to equal the 2oz bottle I currently get.  

I am so worried and scared for the families who cannot afford to pay for a card to get that “affirmative defense” by obtaining a card. It is also very difficult to get diagnoses added. My family advocated for several years just to get autism on the list which took a serious amount of time and dedication approaching the Medical Cannabidiol Board and the Iowa Board of Medicine. Most families and sick Iowans do not have time or resources to be able to advocate. Instead, they relied on consumable hemp and all the local health and wellness businesses to help guide and educate them. 

I think it is intentionally cruel to cut Iowans out and force families like mine to rely on affirmative defense to protect themselves and their families. 

I asked longtime Iowa lobbyist Threase Harms about the same official statements. Harms represented five clients opposed to House File 2605: Consumable Hemp Advocates, the American Massage Therapy Association, Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa, and Epilepsy Foundation Iowa.

Regarding the governor’s “steps taken,” Harms said,

We assume this means individuals can apply for a card—if they qualify and get products from out of state—online or in person and bring them back. As you know that is not convenient or fair. Iowans prefer to buy locally, have a local expert to answer their questions, they want to be educated as they are learning about these new products, and they want to know they are getting a safe legal product from a trusted source. Those things can’t be guaranteed with an online purchase or by driving across the border.

As for the “affirmative defense” against possible prosecution, Harms noted,

It’s important to remember that affirmative defense only provides a person the opportunity to present it to the judge if they are charged with a violation. A cardholder may be given a ticket and charged, must go to court and incur all expenses associated with it. It doesn’t guarantee anything. 

In addition, one needs to qualify for a card. That requires a person’s physician to agree to sign their request and qualify their condition (pay for a doctor visit) and then pay the state $100 for the card annually. It’s also important to note, that there are only 13 conditions that qualify for a medical card and people use consumable hemp for more than the limited list of conditions the state has arbitrarily approved. As you know Iowa has one of the most restrictive programs in the country. The consumable hemp program opened up access to who whole new group of Iowans who live with various chronic conditions.

About the Author(s)

Erin Farquhar

  • Iowa's Medical Cannabis Program is a Federal Racketeering Scheme

    Come on, Iowans. Get the cannabis juice card and register as a federal criminal.

  • I checked out a lobbyist declaration list...

    …and it appears that Blank Children’s Hospital was registered in favor of this very dubious bill(?!) I appreciate the links to the roll call votes, which unfortunately are good reminders of what kind of Iowa Legislature currently controls this state.

  • this bill was amended at the last minute

    to change the limits per package, etc. I believe the Blank Children’s Hospital registered in favor of the original bill because of the 21 year old age limit on purchase of these products.

  • Thanks, Laura

    I appreciate that information.