Jacob Trone had barely gotten Jacob’s Ladder CBD opened at Kennedy Mall when he was forced to remove most of the products from store shelves.
After getting the all clear to open, he suddenly learned that the products he was selling containing cannabidiol — oils, gummies and creams — were prohibited by law.
Since then, Trone has had to reformulate his business model, since only a few of the products he originally stocked had no CBD.
That scenario should never have played out this way for Trone or any of the other Iowa shops selling CBD products.
Ten Dubuque County businesses got warning letters last month to stop selling CBD products. Although cannabidiol was made legal in Iowa in May, restrictions were placed on which products could be sold to the public. State law requires that a CBD product be made up of less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Additionally, those products must be made in Iowa by licensed CBD manufacturers.
That’s limiting, since there are only two licensed manufacturers in the state — MedPharm and Iowa Relief. Further, only five dispensary licenses are available, per Iowa law, and there are no licensed dispensaries locally.
That left local law enforcement agencies to try to interpret state law. At first, Dubuque Police officials thought it would be legal for shops to sell CBD products as long as they had no THC. Upon further study, police and the county attorney’s office concluded that was not the case.
It all goes back to the Iowa Legislature legalizing CBD but providing little guidance on how that legalization would play out.
Iowa has a poor track record on administering laws surrounding CBD. In 2014, the state made it legal to use cannabidiol to treat children with severe epilepsy. Families of those children were thrilled with the news, as the non-psychoactive oil has been shown to be remarkably effective in treating seizure disorders in children. But the excitement dissolved when the reality of the logistics set in. Though it became legal to possess the oil, at that time the oil was only produced and dispensed in Colorado and Oregon, and it could not be sold to residents from out of state nor carried over state lines.
It took years to change the completely ineffective law.
Now, this latest change in CBD law likely will also need clarification. Iowa legislators must take care to clearly spell out ramifications of changes in the law.
Last year’s legalization of CBD made life difficult for police as they attempted to enforce the vague law. It cost small business owners money as they invested in products they could now be criminally charged for selling. With full-blown recreational marijuana now legal across the river in Illinois, Iowans are now following CBD rules that might be overly strict.
The legalization landscape surrounding CBD and marijuana has changed dramatically in recent years. As Iowa lawmakers attempt to find the right balance for Iowans, it’s important citizens and law enforcement have a clear picture of what state law allows and prohibits.