Climbing Kites, Iowa’s first cannabis-infused sparkling water, features varying doses of THC and CBD. Thanks to a majority share purchase from Big Grove Brewery in February 2024, it will soon be available in 42 states. (Big Grove Brewery)

There was a curious double feature playing in the Iowa Senate Tuesday.

First, senators approved legislation that would tighten regulation of products containing hemp and THC, the stuff that makes you high. The main target is hemp -infused seltzer drinks.

The bill would limit the products to 4 milligrams of THC per serving and 10 mg per package. It could have been worse if the buzzkill caucus had its way.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, argued the bill is “desperately needed regulation” closing a loophole in Iowa’s hemp laws. Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, contended businesses are exploiting the loophole with “nefarious motives.”

Sounds dangerous. It passed the Senate 31-18, with most of the no votes coming from Democrats, and is headed to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk. No one is going to get high on her watch.

Then the Senate turned its attention to legislation granting farm chemical companies legal liability protections against claims the companies failed to warn users of health effects, so long as the products carry required EPA labeling. It was approved on a 31-19 vote.

The bill was requested by the pharmaceutical and farm chemical giant Bayer. The company bought Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion — at the time the largest cash-only deal in history — and inherited its most popular product Roundup.

Now Bayer is being pummeled by lawsuits alleging Roundup’s weed-killing chemical, glyphosate, causes cancer after prolonged exposure. Iowa would be the first state in the nation to grant Bayer’s wish for protection from litigation, including by famers.

The EPA has declared it’s unlikely glyphosate causes cancer. Republicans who backing the bill argued it’s safe as kittens and Bayer has no nefarious motives.

“There is no proven link between glyphosate and cancer,” said Senate President Amy Sinclair, delivering a passionate defense of Roundup. It’s greedy trial lawyers who are the real problem, driving up the cost of glyphosate.

But other research has come to a different conclusion on cancer risk. A University of Washington analysis, for example, found that long-term exposure increases the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

As one defense attorney representing Roundup plaintiffs pointed out in 2020, Bayer makes Roundup while its pharmaceuticals division works on a treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Science aside, the most basic issue at play is Iowans’ ability to go to court and seek damages from a product they believe harmed them. Why are we eager to hamper those claims to please an international conglomerate? We have judges and juries who are more than capable of rendering a fair verdict.

It’s hard enough to take on a large corporation without lawmakers putting a thumb on the scales of justice. When Bayer bought Monsanto, it had the help of lawyers from six large law firms to seal the deal.

And don’t shed a tear for Bayer. It bought Monsanto even after the World Health Organization’s International Research Agency on Cancer found that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

So, hemp drinks are nefarious. Glyphosate is totally safe. Don’t worry, it all makes sense under the Golden Dome of Wisdom.

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