Understanding the Legal Rights and Protections of Medical Marijuana

Since 2014, Iowa law has allowed individuals certified by a healthcare practitioner to possess low-THC cannabis oils. The law was amended in 2017 and again in 2020, expanding the list of qualifying conditions to include PTSD and chronic pain.

Despite these changes, the state’s MMJ program remains relatively restrictive compared to other states. 


One of the nation’s strictest medicinal marijuana laws is found in the state of Iowa. The law permits registered patients to possess and use cannabis products like capsules, tinctures, and lotions, but smoking is still illegal. The program has a limited number of approved manufacturers, and users can only receive up to 4.5 grams every 90 days. Cultivation and distribution remain felony offenses, punishable by up to 50 years in prison.

One of the illnesses on the state list must be diagnosed to be eligible for a medicinal marijuana card in Iowa. If your condition is not on the list, you can get a waiver from your doctor.

While the laws have softened in recent years, Iowa remains one of the most strict states when it comes to recreational marijuana and cannabis use. A positive drug test can lead to severe consequences, and employers can be sued for wrongful termination if they fire an employee who tests positive for cannabis. Iowa also does not require workers’ compensation to cover medical marijuana.


As of right now, Iowa does not tax medical marijuana sales. However, as the industry matures, the state could enact a statewide sales tax on medical cannabis, similar to those imposed in other states.

The law currently permits the use of medical cannabis to treat debilitating conditions such as severe or chronic pain; nausea or vomiting from cancer or other terminal disease; loss of appetite; spasms associated with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); seizures related to epilepsy; Crohn’s disease; Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma. Patients must obtain a doctor’s recommendation to receive medical cannabis and can only purchase up to a 90-day supply.

Smoking is prohibited in all public places, and a driver may still be arrested for impaired driving, even when using medicinal marijuana. Although drivers can decline to submit to a chemical test, doing so may result in a minimum 90-day license suspension.

Employers should be aware that there are no provisions in the new law protecting Iowa medical marijuana users from adverse employment actions, and courts have yet to rule on this issue. 


In Iowa, medical marijuana is available to patients with a valid doctor’s prescription. The state has established a registration and licensing system for those who wish to purchase and use the substance legally. Getting a medicinal marijuana card is a relatively straightforward process. First, you must schedule an appointment with a healthcare practitioner who can sign your physician certification form. Once the document is signed, you can upload it online with a driver’s license and a $100 application fee. The state does offer a reduced application fee of $25 for those who can demonstrate financial hardship.

Upon registering with the state, you will be able to purchase cannabis products that contain up to 3% THC. You can also grow your cannabis if you have the appropriate permit and follow the state’s regulations. However, it is essential to note that smoking marijuana in public or at work is still illegal. The law also prohibits workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees who test positive for marijuana in the workplace.


Patients who have registered with Iowa can purchase medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries. Products can be consumed on-site at the licensed dispensary or transported off-site to a safe location for consumption by cardholders. However, consumption in public places is not allowed.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in Iowa for a wide variety of conditions. Those seeking to qualify for the program should first obtain a medical evaluation from a licensed healthcare practitioner.

The state’s regulations set high standards for manufacturers and dispensaries, requiring a contract with a lab to spot-test products for content, safety, and consistency. The state also limits the amount of THC patients can access every 90 days and prohibits smoking or growing at home.


Unlike some of its more liberal neighbors, Iowa’s medical marijuana program is highly restrictive. Patients are only permitted to access cannabis preparations (not raw flowers) and only from two licensed manufacturers. Home cultivation is illegal, and the state limits patients to a 90-day supply.

To register with the state, patients must get a physician certification form and pay an application fee. Applicants must have one of the qualifying conditions listed in Iowa’s medical marijuana law. The patient can also choose to designate a caregiver who will be responsible for filing the medical marijuana patient’s tax form and assisting with the administration of the medicine.

Medical marijuana in Iowa may not be smoked in public places, and the law prohibits driving while under the influence of THC. While it is legal to smoke in private, companies are allowed to test workers for THC and may choose not to hire someone who tests positive for cannabis use. Workers who have registered as medical marijuana users with the state may not face discrimination from their employers and may ask for accommodations to take part in a drug test.

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