CBD-based products – oils, lotions, cosmetics, candy, additives – seem to be turning up on store shelves throughout the Corridor … Purchase and possession of CBD oil products are illegal in Iowa. State law classifies cannabidiol as a controlled substance. Learn more.
CBD is illegal — but some Iowa prosecutors not too concerned about enforcement
CBD-based products – oils, lotions, cosmetics, candy, additives – seem to be turning up on store shelves throughout the Corridor and elsewhere in Iowa.
That’s even though using or possessing products that contain cannabidiol – a derivative of marijuana and more commonly known as CBD – remains illegal for the majority of people in Iowa who don’t have a state-issued medical registration card.
Since the 2018 Farm Bill removed restrictions on CBD that is derived from hemp plants, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said there has been some confusion regarding the legality of CBD products.
‘And that’s why you don’t have uniform enforcement of the CBD products across the state,” he said.
As far as his office goes, Vander Sanden said prosecuting distributors of CBD products or the people who use them is not a high priority.
‘We concentrate our resources on the prosecution the street crimes – especially crimes of violence – and until somebody can show me that these products are harmful, then the prosecution of any technical violations of the law would probably not be a high priority for this office,” Vander Sanden said.
‘What seems to be uncontroverted, is that CBD products can have some therapeutic effect for people who use it and it doesn’t seem to be causing any harm,” he continued.
Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness concurred, saying her office views prosecuting CBD cases fall pretty low on her office’s list of priorities.
‘It’s all illegal right now,” she said. ‘But I expect that is going to quickly change and soon, and I would much rather see our law enforcement agencies focusing on serious and violent crimes than chasing after something that will likely be legal soon.”
Lyness said she’d venture that local law enforcement agencies are on the same page as she.
‘From what I understand, they have gone around and talked to the businesses that are selling CBD products and reminding them that they’re illegal, kind of giving them a warning,” she said. ‘But I don’t believe they are interested in doing much beyond that.”
In some counties, law enforcement officers have directed shop owners to remove CBD products from their shelves, the Des Moines Register has reported.
In Polk County, an Ankeny business owner was arrested for allegedly selling CBD products without a license from the state. The charge was a first for Polk County, according to the county attorney’s office.
‘The law makes it pretty clear that any product containing cannabidiol is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and is illegal,” Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said in a message to The Gazette. ‘The only exceptions to that classification are FDA-approved medications in Iowa’s medical CBD program. So we’re going to enforce the law until that changes.”
The arrest of Lacie Navin, 33, of Des Moines, came after officers with the Mid-Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force twice purchased products from her business. Navin faces two counts of controlled substance violation and failure to pay tax on an unlawful substance.
Her arrest was a part of a task force investigation of businesses selling CBD in central Iowa that was initiated after complaints had been filed in multiple counties, said Lt. Heath Osberg, spokesperson for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
In Cedar Rapids, a few CBD-dedicated shops have opened for business – including Your CBD Store, which is part of a nationwide franchise. The Health Hut, a longtime health and wellness store located in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, has stocked CBD products for about seven years, owner Alicia Beck said.
Many of her customers have found relief through these products, particularly those dealing with issues related to chronic pain and inflammation, Beck said.
‘If they’re looking to enhance their health and be able to live a long, comfortable lifestyle as opposed to living in pain, it’s a nice alternative to prescription medications,” Beck said.
‘We have had great success with that.”
The state expanded its medical marijuana program in December 2018, but Beck said some of her customers have found the program to be inaccessible.
Some of her customers don’t qualify under the program’s requirements, she said. Others find it difficult to drive an hour or more to the state-licensed dispensaries to obtain the medication,
So instead, they seek out her store, she said.
Beck, who has owned Health Hut for five years, said she is not particularly concerned about the arrest of Navin, the Ankeny shop owner. She has never had any interactions with local law enforcement regarding the products she sells in her store, she said, but is open to that conversation.
Iowa law currently defines marijuana as ‘all parts of the plants of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin, including tetrahydrocannabinols,” according to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
That’s important because, as CBD is derived from parts of the cannabis plant that are included in the definition of marijuana, CBD is considered marijuana under Iowa law, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a statement earlier this year.
Iowa law labels marijuana and its psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol – or THC – as a Schedule I controlled substance, making any product containing CBD or THC a controlled substance under federal statute.
The only exception to that law, according to the Attorney General’s Office, comes with the Medical Cannabidiol Act, which permits the manufacturing and distribution of pharmaceutical grade cannabinoid with a THC level of no more than 3 percent.
Medical cannabidiol, the attorney general said, only can be manufactured by Iowa’s two licensed manufacturers – MedPharm and Iowa Relief – and distributed to individuals with state-issued registration cards at Iowa’s five licensed dispensaries.
But that doesn’t mean Linn County authorities are going to start targeting local CBD sellers, County Attorney Vander Sanden said, adding that prosecuting people selling or using CBD products isn’t worth the taxpayer money it would cost.
‘My legal opinion is that CBD oil that is extracted from hemp is entirely legal, provided it does not contain more than the 03 percent of the psychoactive THC,” he said.
But the difficulty in determining if a CBD product exceeds the legal level of THC is that you can’t tell just by looking at the product – it has to be chemically analyzed in a lab.
‘Before we can charge a distributor with selling illegal CBD products, we would have to have the product tested by our crime lab, and we’re being told that our crime lab cannot test these products to quantify the level of THC in the product,” Vander Sanden said.
‘That means we’d have to send the product to an outside laboratory – and if that’s the case, then it’d be an expensive proposition to investigate the retailers, and it’d be an expensive proposition to prosecute.”
The same would apply for an individual who was caught in possession of CBD products, the county attorney said. Those products still would need to be tested to build a case.
‘It’s just like any other case involving drugs – we have to be able to prove a substance is illegal, and that’s a lot simpler with defined illegal drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine,” Vander Sanden said.
‘When it comes to those substances, we have chemical field tests we can run to prove their identity, but with this CBD it’s an entirely different thing.”
And as the state’s crime labs already are overloaded, Johnson County’s Lyness said she’d rather not waste their time and resources on a product that is not harmful.
‘I would much rather have (the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation) processing sexual assault kits or testing substances that are actually killing people,” she said.
‘And from my understanding, CBD is a beneficial substance that seems to help a lot of people. It’s not dangerous.”
Owner Alicia Beck shows some of the CBD products she has for sale at Health Hut in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
CBD oil products are seen among other health products on the shelves at Health Hut in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Owner Alicia Beck holds a CBD topical cream she has for sale at Health Hut in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
‘We concentrate our resources on the prosecution the street crimes — especially crimes of violence — and until somebody can show me that these products are harmful, then the prosecution of any technical violations of the law would probably not be a high priority for this office,’ says Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
CBD products are ‘all illegal right now,’ Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness says. ‘But I expect that is going to quickly change and soon, and I would much rather see our law enforcement agencies focusing on serious and violent crimes than chasing after something that will likely be legal soon.’ (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Is CBD Oil Legal in Iowa? – August 2022
Iowa state law still classifies CBD under Schedule I controlled substances (4) . Thus, such products are illegal until the federal government approves Iowa ’s hemp plan.
Attorney General Thomas Miller issued the statement on hemp plants and CBD products in May 2020, clarifying to the public that CBD is illegal under Iowa law (5) .
Historically, the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act defined Schedule I drugs as substances with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use (6) .
The law included hemp, marijuana, and other cannabis plant varieties.
The 2018 Farm Bill redefined industrial hemp to remove it from the category and allowed its growth, cultivation, and manufacture (7) .
The revised definition of hemp made hemp-derived CBD products legal under federal laws , as long as the products contained less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ) on a dry weight basis (8) .
The Farm Bill also tasked the United States Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) with regulating the labeling of CBD products .
Although such federal laws exist, the legality of using hemp products in Iowa remains limited to qualified citizens.
Iowa CBD Laws
The Iowa legislature passed Senate File (SF) 2360 or the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act in 2014 (9) .
The law allowed Iowans with intractable epilepsy to use CBD products with a THC content of less than 0.3%.
Although the act existed, residents had no way to purchase CBD products within the state of Iowa .
House File 524
Former Gov. Terry Branstad signed HF 524 or a revised version of the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act in 2017 to authorize the use of medical cannabis (10) .
This law assigned the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) with developing a framework to regulate the manufacture and sale of CBD.
The law also granted the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) the authority to issue a medical cannabidiol registration card to qualified patients.
Patients with a medical cannabidiol registration card may purchase CBD products legally from licensed dispensaries in Iowa.
Iowa Hemp Act (SF 599)
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File (SF) 599 or the Iowa Hemp Act in May 2019 (11) .
Through this law, the current governor assigned the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to draft an industrial hemp program.
By approving the draft, the United States Department of Agriculture ( USDA ) granted the IDALS the power to oversee hemp and CBD product regulation within the state.
House File 2589
Later on, lawmakers signed more amendments to Iowa ’s Medical Cannabidiol Program through HF 2589 (12) .
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the law on June 29, 2020, which took effect on July 1, 2020.
This law removed the 0.3% THC limit on products and replaced it with a 4.50g THC purchase limit per 90 days.
The only exceptions to this amendment were terminally ill patients and those with healthcare practitioner s that certified them for additional THC use upon joining the program.
Other modifications included the addition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the conditions.
This law also redefined the scope of medical conditions that CBD was used for , from “untreatable pain” to “ chronic pain .”
HF 2589 also shifted the responsibility of issuing registration cards to the IDPH instead of the DOT.
Farmers and growers can apply for an Iowa hemp license to grow and cultivate hemp plants within the state through the IDALS Hemp Law (13) .
It is important to note that this commercial hemp production program does not legalize CBD consumption.
All individuals associated with the hemp industry must submit their fingerprints upon applying for a hemp license.
Associated individuals include:
- Those with at least 5% or more legal or equitable interest in hemp crops
- Those applying as a member of a business entity
- Key participants in an executive corporate entity
- An applicant appointed by the president or chancellor of an institution governed by the state board of regents
- An individual acting as the authorized representative for the hemp licensee
The IDALS also collect s license application fees once an individual submits their hemp license application.
|Acres||License Fee||Base Inspection Fee|
|0 to 5||$500 plus $5 per acre||$1,000|
|5.1 to 10||$750 plus $5 per acre||$1,000|
|10.1 to 40||$1,000 plus $5 per acre||$1,000|
More information on the application process is available at the Iowa Department of Agriculture website .
At the state level, laboratories must establish independent test methods and implement standard operating procedures for testing CBD products for cannabinoids , microbials, residual solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides (14) .
Based on Iowa ’s Hemp Law, apart from standard nonrefundable sampling fees, a hemp licensee must provide a pre-harvest notification to the IDALS through a published form at least 30 days before harvesting (15) .
Upon receipt of the pre-harvest notice, the IDALS schedule a sampling appointment with the licensee.
The licensee or an authorized representative then accompan ies the IDALS inspector at the crop site to produce official samples. The inspector collect s samples based on the following table (16) :
|Number of Acres||Number of Plants Sampled||Number of Acres||Number of Plants Sampled||Number of Acres||Number of Plants Sampled||Number of Acres||Number of Plants Sampled|
*If necessary for obtaining adequate samples, the IDALS inspector may take more than the minimum cuttings listed in the table.
More information on official hemp harvest sampling, testing, and timing is available at the Iowa Department of Agriculture website .
Buying CBD Legally
MedPharm Iowa is the only licensed CBD manufacturer within the state, per the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Program (17) .
How to Choose Which CBD Products to Buy
When choosing the best CBD products to buy in Iowa , customers should consider if the shops they plan to purchase from are accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). BBB gathers consumer reports and reviews on various businesses and only accredits credible entities (18) .
As of November 2020, only two CBD oil stores in Iowa are listed on the BBB site, both of which are not accredited by the BB B (19) :
- 50 Shades of Green
Council Bluffs, IA
Phone: (712) 326-1850
- Your CBD Store
Phone: (563) 676-1122
CBD oil comes in various forms. Standard CBD products include oil tinctures , CBD gummies , pills or capsules, topicals , and vape products.
The acceptable forms of medical CBD in Iowa are any of the following (20) :
- Oral forms – tablets, capsules, liquids, tinctures , and sublingual forms
- Topical forms – gels, ointments, creams, lotions , and transdermal patches
- Nebulized inhaled forms
- Suppositories – rectal and vaginal
Hemp quality is an important factor to consider in choosing CBD products since most of them are hemp-derived.
Individuals purchasing CBD products from licensed distributors in Iowa must look for the certificate of analysis (COA).
The COA is a document that third-party labs issue a CBD company to ensure that its products meet quality standards.
A COA contains a CBD product ’s cannabinoid profile and test results to see if they contain pesticides, bacteria, heavy metals, and residual solvents.
Where to Buy CBD Products Legally
Registered patients or their proxies may purchase CBD products in person from one of three licensed dispensaries in the s tate:
- Sioux City, IA
- Windsor Heights, IA
Iowa Cannabis Company
These dispensaries have lists of products on their websites. Registered patients may contact the nearest location to schedule appointments for making purchases.
How to Read CBD Labels and Packaging
Medical CBD products in Iowa must meet the state’s extensive labeling requirements (21) .
Per Iowa state regulations, CBD product labels must list the following details:
- Manufacturer’s name and address
- Primary active ingredients
- Directions for use
- The recommended amount and the maximum amount by age and weight
- Expiration date
- Storage instructions
Customers should seek CBD brands that comply with these labeling requirements to ensure that they are purchasing from a reliable source.
Some CBD brands include scannable QR codes on their products so customers can compare the labels with actual lab results.
What Is CBD?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa plants, particularly hemp.
The three types of CBD are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and naturally occurring cannabinoids within the hemp plant .
Broad-spectrum CBD contains almost the same components as full-spectrum CBD, except THC .
Meanwhile, CBD isolates only contain cannabidiol after chemically separating the other components of the hemp plant .
What Is the Difference Between Hemp- and Marijuana-Derived CBD?
Both hemp and marijuana plants contain CBD.
CBD is more abundant in hemp plants , while THC is more abundant in marijuana plants.
Hemp-derived CBD has less than 0.3 % THC on a dry weight basis and is federally legal.
Marijuana-derived CBD contain s more than that THC amount, making such products illegal.
What Are the Benefits of CBD Oil?
Several studies have looked at the purported benefits of CBD oil .
Researchers observed that CBD has potential therapeutic benefits for Parkinson’s disease (22) , Crohn ’s disease (23) , and multiple sclerosis (24) .
Still, the US FDA has only one approved CBD treatment for epilepsy called Epidiolex (25) .
Does CBD Oil Have Side Effects?
CBD has a good safety profile , according to the World Health Organization (26) . However, it may have potential adverse effects, including the following (27) :
- Liver damage
- Loss of appetite and gastrointestinal problems
- Mood changes
- Potential drug interactions
- Changes in alertness
- Dry mouth
Why Is CBD Oil Legal in the Other States?
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation at the federal level. This law redefined hemp as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC content .
Individual states have their interpretation of this law while adhering to FDA standards.
Retailers cannot market CBD as medication or dietary supplements , per FDA regulation.
Misdemeanors and failure to comply with federal law enforcement may result in corresponding fines.
Although the Farm Bill of 2018 legalized the cultivation of hemp in all 50 states at the federal level, CBD is still illegal in Iowa .
Iowans may only purchase medical CBD from licensed dispensaries within the state.
*The information shared in this article was based on findings retrieved on November 11, 2020. The legality and regulations for CBD may change without notice .