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By Robert Connelly, Quad City Times

State licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Davenport and Council Bluffs closed Monday, leaving only three others in Iowa’s program.

The Iowa Department of Public Health said it learned Monday that the two Have a Heart Compassionate Care dispensaries were being shut down that day.

The closures leave licensed dispensaries only in Waterloo, Sioux City and Windsor Heights.

Officials will try to assist patients and caregivers who relied on those facilities and “will work to license two new dispensaries as soon as possible,” the Health Department said in statement.

Lucas Nelson, general manager of MedPharm Iowa, said MedPharm had attempted to acquire the two Have a Heart Compassion Care dispensaries last year, but that ultimately was denied by the Health Department.

Now that there are two open licenses, Nelson said, MedPharm will “likely” apply for them.

Besides being one of two licensed medical marijuana product manufacturers in Iowa, MedPharm operates the dispensaries in Windsor Heights and Sioux City.

With the program being relatively young in Iowa, two dispensaries closing is a “concern about the health of the program,” Nelson said.

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“At the same time, we have seen some really incredible results for the majority of our patients … we know the good work it can do and the good work it can do for patients so I don’t know a scenario where we would not make an application on those.”

Even if MedPharm was successful in getting a license, it isn’t a guarantee a facility would be in Davenport. The location would be part of any application, which may take more than a year.

“It’s unfortunate for patients this early in the program to have this happen. The fact that both Davenport and Council Bluffs were seeing several hundred patients each and those folks are going to be sort of out in the dark and forced to drive further away to get their medicine,” Nelson said.

“It certainly hurts those people and we’ll do everything we can to welcome them into our dispensaries.”

This is happening as legislators continue to debate increasing the THC level or making other allowances manufacturers say are necessary to having the products be more effective.

“This is probably another piece of evidence that we need some improvements to the program for this to survive,” Nelson said. The “long-term sustainability of this program is at risk without improvement … got to make some improvements if this thing is going to last long-term.”

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