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Iowa’s first medical marijuana dispensary will begin selling products Dec. 1

Iowa’s first medical cannabis manufacturer and dispenser, MedPharm Iowa, is slated to begin selling products on December 1.

Around 1,000 Iowans are expecting to have received doctors’ approval to use medical marijuana by the time dispensaries open at the beginning of next month, Lucas Nelson, MedPharm Iowa’s general manager, told Clay & Milk.

Upon opening, MedPharm Iowa will offer a total of 14 different products from two dispensaries in the state, one in Sioux City and one in Windsor Heights.

“We’re really looking in forward to hearing from our patients,” Nelson said “Where they need to go, what forms they’re looking for, what formulations might better benefit them and what results they’re seeing.”

Last week, the facility held a grand opening and invited patients, legislators, and advocates to tour the growing laboratory and operations.

MedPharm Iowa is currently pushing for legislators to lift Iowa’s current 3 percent cap on THC.

“That’s certainly our number one legislative goal at this point,” Nelson said. “I think that process has been very challenging because there is as much information and confusion around that percentage cap as there is anything in this program.”

The 3 percent cap limits MedPharm Iowa’s ability to create products that can properly and effectively treat some patients needs.

“For one reason or another, this program ended up with a cap on products and the way that’s really rearing its head is with our patients that require higher doses. It is really hard to get them to the doses they need.” Nelson said. “And for any patient who would like to take an inhaled form, such as vaporization, it becomes almost impossible for us to formulate any product that has any sort of ability to be used anywhere in a normal price range for the patient.”

Nelson told Clay & Milk that being the first to open in the state comes with its own set on unique challenges.

“It’s certainly made for some extra challenge. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s been useful too because we’ve been able to shape the way this program goes,” said Nelson. “Some of the biggest challenges have been that we still have some folks responsible for overseeing this program that want to hear from multiple operators as far as improvement to the program.”

Going forward, MedPharm Iowa wants to become more of an educational resource for the entire state.

“What we saw was that if we weren’t the ones going to be out there bringing this info to patients, legislators, and communities, then it probably wasn’t going to happen,” Nelson said. “We’re seeking to be a resource for everyone across the state. So we’re happy to present on this topic, answer questions, meet with people and do anything we can to keep pushing this program forward.”

Iowa's first medical marijuana dispensary will begin selling products Dec. 1 | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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