Iowa lawmakers want improved CBD labeling, transparency as sales boom

A light-up CBD sign outside of "Despensary," a cannabidiol shop at 219 4th Street in Des Moines. (Photo by: Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

As methamphetamine use grows in the state of Iowa, some state senators want to create more regulations on who is allowed to sell glass and metal pipes.

The sale of drug paraphernalia is already illegal in the state of Iowa, but stores are bypassing that law and selling pipes under the connotation that they’re for tobacco use only, said Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, who introduced Senate Study Bill 3007.

U.S. Commerce laws don’t allow the state of Iowa to outright ban the sale of pipes, so Dawson said the next step is to require stores that sell pipes to acquire a tobacco license and a newly created “device retailer permit.”

“No one is smoking tobacco out of one of these pipes,” Dawson said. “It’s unconscionable to me at a personal level that a business owner would sell these devices knowing that it’s for drug uses.”

The bill requires stores selling pipes to pay an annual $1,000 fee to either the city or county granting the permit and they must also acquire a tobacco permit. Out-of-state businesses would also need a permit. Sellers would also be required to provide full reports of transactions about whom they’re selling to if the state requests it, according to the bill.

Fees from the permits would go toward a special state fund for specialty courts to address substance abuse and mental health issues in the judicial system, according to the bill.

Law enforcement agencies who were invited to speak during the subcommittee said head shops are all around the state, selling glass pipes that consumers are using to smoke meth, the number one drug of choice.

In 2019, more than 10,200 Iowans were treated for meth use disorders, an all-time high, according to the Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy. The amount of meth seized by law enforcement in 2018 exceeds each of the last six years and meth purity is at an all-time high of 97%, according to the office.

“There’s obviously a business for these things,” said Des Moines Police Lt. Josh Rhamy. “Very hard to use tobacco in these.”

Labeling CBD products in Iowa

Another portion of the bill would require more consumer-warning labeling in the sale of cannabidiol, better known as CBD.

Sellers with CBD on their shelves would be required to have a label that states their products “may or may not contain the ingredients stated on the label, that the efficacy and safety of the product have not been substantiated or approved by a state or federal agency based on competent and reliable scientific evidence, and that the consumer should use the product at the consumer’s own risk.”

“I think we should have labels for these CBD products that are all over the place,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said. “They’re not testing for what consumers are actually getting.” 

The bill requires that sellers display the label with their products unless a state or federal agency substantiated their claims, but Iowa’s approved medical cannabidiol dispensaries would not require the same labeling, legislators said.

But the legalities of CBD itself are muddied in Iowa as different county attorneys and agencies interpret the 2018 Farm Bill and Iowa’s 2019 Hemp Bill differently.

While the Iowa Attorney General’s Office issued a news release in 2019 stating it believes the sale of CBD is illegal, Dawson said he views some products as legal in the state. But he said the labeling is to let consumers know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved or regulated CBD yet.

“So, ingest it at your own risk,” Dawson said.

The bill will move forward to a full committee.

Linh Ta
Reporter Linh Ta comes to Iowa Capital Dispatch from the Des Moines Register, where she covered trending news, public safety and the suburbs. Most recently, she has covered retail business and followed both national and local trends to provide insight about the issues that matter the most to Iowans. Beyond traditional journalism, Ta has worked as a speech coach with the Des Moines Storytellers Project with the goal of sharing the diverse perspectives of Iowans from all walks of life. She is the 2019 winner of the Young Iowa Journalist Award and the winner of an Iowa Broadcast News Award. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @linhmaita.