November 20, 2019

    Lawmakers Push to Expand Medical Cannabis
    REAP Assemblies Held Across Iowa
    Iowans Continue to Spend Big on Sports Betting
    Damage Continues to Mount for Farm Economy
    Iowa Enters Second Year of Suicide Prevention Grant
    Trump Administration Sides with Big Oil Over Iowa Farmers, Producers
    Measles Outbreak Shows Need for Immunizations
    DNR Seeks Input on Water Quality Standards

    Lawmakers Push to Expand Medical Cannabis

    Improved health care for tens of thousands of Iowans depends on passing major reforms of Iowa’s medical cannabis program during the 2020 legislative session.

    For the last six years, legislators have debated various efforts to establish a working medical cannabis program. Last session, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed HF 732, which would have eliminated the current 3% THC cap and replaced it with a 25 gram over 90-day period maximum disbursement.

    However, the Governor vetoed the bill at the last minute saying the change was not recommended by the Iowa Medical Cannabidioal board and could lead to unintended consequences. All eight members of the board who approve the recommendations are appointed by the Governor.

    Board Recommends Minimal Changes to Medical Cannabis Program

    Last week, the Iowa Medical Cannabidioal Board submitted a proposal requesting state legislators remove the state’s current THC cap in favor of a purchase limit during the 2020 legislative session.

    Current law prohibits medical cannabis products from containing more than 3% THC. The board’s proposal would remove this cap and replace it with a purchase limit of 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day period. The purchase limit would not apply to the terminally ill, and the limit could be increased by a certifying health care provider without the board’s approval.

    The board also passed a proposal recommending PTSD and intellectual disability with aggression or self-injury to the list of eligible medical conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. A petition to add PTSD to the list of eligible conditions was brought before the board in a previous meeting earlier this year, but was rejected. The Iowa Board of Medicine must now consider whether to approve these conditions in an upcoming meeting.

    As of the beginning of 2019, there were 505 health care professionals in Iowa who have patients certified for medical cannabidiol.

    In a poll released earlier this year, nearly 80% of Iowans support expanding access to the state’s Medical Cannabidiol program, according to the Des Moines Register.

    REAP Assemblies Held Across Iowa

    Local Iowans will be given the opportunity to shape how Iowa’s soil, water, and parks are managed through local REAP Assemblies. Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP), is funded by the state’s Environment First Fund, receiving $12 million this year to help enhance and protect Iowa’s natural and cultural resources.

    At the REAP Assemblies, Iowans can discuss the impact of the program on their local communities, as well as tell us what they want for their parks, trails, museums, and other amenities. Each assembly represents a region of counties and is scheduled for 90 minutes.

    Since the creation of the program in 1989, more than 15,000 projects have been funded across the state by the program. These projects have been in every county and include water quality projects, preserving historical assets, and improving outdoor recreation.

    Additional information on the program and the assemblies can be found at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/REAP.

    Meetings are held from 6:30 pm – 8 pm at the following locations:

    November 20th: Star’s Cave Natural Center, Burlington
    November 20th: Briggs Woods Main Office, Webster City
    November 20th: Pin Oak Lodge, Chariton
    November 21st: Environmental Learning Center, Oskaloosa
    November 21st: Kent Park Education Center, Oxford
    December 2nd: Correctionville Community Center, Correctionville
    December 2nd: Grimes Farm, Marshalltown
    December 3rd: Clay County Regional Events Center, Spencer
    December 3rd: Breezy Lodge at Arrowhead Park, Neola
    December 4th: Hartman Reserve Nature Center, Cedar Falls
    December 4th: Environmental Learning Center, Muscatine
    December 5th: Ventura Community Center, Ventura
    December 5th: Shenandoah Public Library, Shenandoah
    December 5th: Raccoon River Park, West Des Moines

    Iowans Continue to Spend Big on Sports Betting

    Iowans continue to spend big money on sports betting and wagering receipts continue to rise. The amount of the sports bets placed rose from $38.5 million in the month of September to $46.5 million in the month of October.

    Sports betting is offered at 18 of the 19 Iowa casinos across the state and seven of those allow bets to be made online though an app. Online bets accounted for $25.9 million of the $46.5 million of September bets. In order to place a bet on an app, a person must first go to a casino to set up an account, however that requirement will go away in January 2021.

    Since sports betting went live in August, Iowans have bet more than $93.6 million and have won more than $12.7 million. The state has collected less than a million dollars in tax revenue on the bets at a total of $861,846.

    Earlier this month, daily fantasy sports became legal in the state, allowing Iowans another option to bet on sports. Daily fantasy sports give participants the opportunity to choose a roster of players competing that day and play against friends or others across the country.

    Damage Continues to Mount for Farm Economy

    According to a new report, 44% of Iowa farmers and producers struggled to pay their bills last year. The report, conducted by Iowa State University, assessed growers’ ability to cover short term liabilities like seed and fertilizer.

    In addition to ongoing trade wars and recent action taken by the Trump Administration that has reduced demand for crops and biofuels, Iowa producers have also faced difficult weather this year. There was sustained flooding in the western portion of the state, a wet spring that delayed planting, and a wet fall that has led to propane shortages and a slow harvest.

    Over the last year, there were 24 farm bankruptcies in Iowa, which is a 140% increase over the previous year. Nationally, there were 580 farm bankruptcy filings in September, a 24% increase from last year. It’s the highest level of bankruptcies seen since the great recession in the late 2000s.

    Iowa Enters Second Year of Suicide Prevention Grant

    A $3.5 million grant to prevent suicide in Iowa is being used by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). The grant money will be administered over five years, and will implement the “Zero Suicide” model across the state. The basis of the Zero Suicide model is that suicide deaths for individuals receiving treatment within health and behavioral health systems are preventable.

    In order to prevent suicidal individuals from falling through the cracks, suicide prevention must first be seen as a core responsibility of health care. This means increasing the awareness of the risk for suicide among Iowa’s substance use disorder treatment population and to expand the screening, treatment, and referral process for adults at risk of suicide.

    According to IDPH, suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Iowa, but is the second leading cause of death for Iowans ages 15 through 34. In 2017, 460 Iowans lost their lives to suicide. A report released last week by the IDPH found that males accounted for 80.7% of the suicide victims in that year.

    If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please contact Your Life Iowa at (855) 581-8111, or use their online chat function found at http://yourlifeiowa.org.

    Trump Administration Sides with Big Oil Over Iowa Farmers, Producers

    As farmers struggle to pay bills and face an uncertain future, Iowans are working together to stop the Trump Administration from reducing demand for biofuels and lowering prices for crops.

    The issue arose as a result of waivers granted by the Trump Administration relating to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Under the RFS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can grant waivers to refineries owned by oil companies that show compliance with the RFS is an economic hardship and exempt them from blending gas with biofuels.

    The number of waivers granted under the Trump Administration has more than tripled those awarded during the Obama Administration.

    In October, a deal was announced by the Trump Administration to help mitigate the ongoing damage done to Iowa producers by the waivers. While initially celebrated, the announced deal to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol lost by the waivers did not happen. Instead, the Trump Administration offered a plan well short of the 15 billion gallons.

    The latest move by the Trump Administration will again reduce demand for biofuels. Here in Iowa, four biofuels plants have already closed and there is decreased demand of 1.4 billion bushels of corn. These losses are compounded by the damage done by the Trump Administration’s ongoing trade war and increased tariffs on agricultural exports to China.

    Iowans are encouraged to lend their support to Iowa farmers and the RFS by contacting the EPA at https://ncga.com/public-policy/stand-up-for-corn/take-action?vvsrc=%2fCampaigns%2f69153%2fRespond. Comments are due November 29th.

    Measles Outbreak Shows Need for Immunizations

    The recent measles outbreak in the U.S. is a lesson on the need for immunizations. For 2019, the final numbers for the measles outbreak from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that 1,250 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 32 states. Iowa was one of those states with a minimal number of cases.

    The 2019 outbreak was the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

    Measles is highly contagious and can spread through the air. The most common symptoms include fever, runny nose, and cough, but measles known for its heavy rash all over the body. People can suffer complications such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain while pregnant women may deliver prematurely.

    According to the CDC, the spread of measles can be attributable to the following:

    • The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.
    • Measles is still common in many parts of the world.
    • Travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the U.S.
    • Measles can spread when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated.

    According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, for the 2018-19 school year, 95.6% of students K-12th grade have a valid Certificate of Immunization indicating the student has received all of the required vaccines (502,286 students). This is above the national average, and a 0.9% increase from the previous year.

    Despite almost 2% of parents now requesting a religious exemption for immunizations, the current programs for blood, dental, vision screenings, and immunizations appears to be working in Iowa. However, indications show that the Iowa Association of School Boards will again push this coming legislative session for the elimination of schools’ involvement in health screenings. A previous bill introduced earlier this year could have resulted in the elimination of school nurses.

    DNR Seeks Input on Water Quality Standards

    A list of impaired waterways that do not meet water quality standards was released by the Department of Natural Resources. Of the 1,421 water segments in the state, 767 of the segments did not meet the standards for the intended use of the water segment. While 523 of the segments needed further investigation to determine the water quality of the segment, and 363 segments fully met all applicable water quality standards. The new draft of impaired waters list includes rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands.

    Every section of water in the state is designated for specific uses, such as fishing, swimming, or providing drinking water. If a water segment is not able to meet this intended use because of pollution or water quality problems, the water is placed on the “impaired waters list.” Determinations are made for protecting aquatic life in the water, as well as recreation that includes contact with the water. Determinations may also be made for drinking water or human health, depending on the water segment.

    Once a water segment is placed on the list, a plan is written to improve the water quality. The plan will identify any water quality problems and specify pollution reductions or solutions to those water quality problems. A water segment is removed from the list when a water quality improvement plan is developed, but a water is considered impaired until the water quality improves.

    Additional information on the impaired waters list can be found on the Department of Natural Resource’s website at https://www.iowadnr.gov/environmental-protection/water-quality/water-monitoring/impaired-waters.

    Public comment on any of these segments, or on the overall process, can be sent to the DNR through December 28, 2019. Comments can be sent via email to Daniel Kendall of the DNR’s Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Section. Comments can be emailed to daniel.kendall@dnr.iowa.gov or sent via mail to:

      Attn: Dan Kendall Water Quality Monitoring & Assessment Section
      Wallace State Office Building
      502 East 9th Street
      Des Moines, Iowa 50319