Iowa's sole medical marijuana grower might get some competition

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Take a look inside the warehouse south of Downtown Des Moines being converted into Iowa’s first legal medical marijuana production facility. Kelsey Kremer/The Register

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Illustration depicting medical marijuana.(Photo: Mark Marturello/The Register)Buy Photo

Iowa could get a second medical marijuana growing facility after all.

Eight organizations told state regulators they might seek a license to grow marijuana plants and process the plants into medications. But they still have two weeks to decide whether to apply.

One of the unidentified companies could join MedPharm Iowa, which has the state’s sole medical marijuana production license and is expected to start selling medications in December. 

MedPharm leaders, who have invested more than $10 million in their Des Moines production facility, have complained Iowa’s new medical marijuana law is too restrictive. They worry that limits on the types of products that may be sold and on the ailments for which they may be used will prevent many Iowans from signing up for the new program. Just 329 Iowa patients have received cards so far. 

Iowa’s medical-marijuana law, passed in 2017, allows regulators to license two production facilities. Nine companies showed initial interest last fall, but MedPharm was the only company to file an application. Since then, MedPharm leaders questioned whether there will be enough customers to make their business sustainable in the long run.

“I think the jury is out whether we can survive under the current law or not,” company owner Christopher Nelson said in April.

MedPharm tried to persuade legislators to loosen the rules before they adjourned for the year on May 5.  

The Iowa Department of Public Health decided earlier this year to give other companies another chance to apply for the state’s second medical marijuana production license. Wednesday was

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