MUSCATINE — Amidst Iowa's changing medical marijuana law, the Muscatine Police Department seized cannabinoid oil from several local businesses, according to Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren. Friday, he said after the officers claimed the products, they did not send them to a lab for testing to confirm they are illegal.
In mid-December, officers seized oils, also known as CBD oil, lotions and other products from five Muscatine stores, saying the sales were unregulated and illegal, citing new state legislation. Iowa administrators have been working to implement a new system of producing and distributing medical marijuana products, including CBD.
The regulated system should be in full swing by 2019 and will allow patients to purchase marijuana products from state-approved dispensaries. Patients will be approved for permits for conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
"The DPH has not yet finalized these rules," Ostergren wrote in a statement regarding the seizure. "As a result there are no CBD products currently legally being sold in the State of Iowa."
Muscatine Police, along with law enforcement in Carroll, were the first in the state to seize CBD products this winter. In his statement, Ostergren said he decided not to file criminal charges against the business owners, and added the products will not be returned.
Under the new law, regulated dispensaries will be able to sell CBD products that contain up to 3 percent THC, the chemical that gets marijuana users high.
In his statement, Ostergren said "police submitted samples of CBD products seized during their investigation to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation for laboratory analysis. The analysis confirms that the CBD products seized in the investigation are marijuana under Iowa law."
On Friday, however, Ostergren said in an email to the Muscatine Journal the police department has not sent CBD products to be tested at the lab since October. He also provided a lab report from an Oct. 9 seizure of CBD edibles, wax and other products, which did not include the specific content of THC in each item.
"Based on what the manufacturers claim is in the items they meet the definition of marijuana under Iowa law," Ostergren said of the recently seized products. "Since I am not filing charges I did not see the need to request additional testing."
Muscatine business owners have refused to comment to the newspaper regarding the seizure. Several have cited a fear they will be criminally charged.
At a Muscatine City Council meeting Dec. 21, though, owner of Limitless RN and founder of the Iowa Hemp Association, Michelle Servadio, publicly commented on the raid. A registered cannabis nurse, Servadio argued she was selling CBD products under the federal 2014 Farm Bill, which authorized certain industrial hemp programs.
"Anything that was in my store was derived from industrial hemp ... (the police) were not knowledgeable of the law they were operating under when they came into my store," she said. "We have a problem, city of Muscatine. If we're going to use taxpayer dollars and we're going to come into small businesses and do this right before Christmas and just pull products from shelves, they better know the law."
Ostergren argued the Farm Bill "did not change Iowa law as it pertains to CBD products."
Proponents argue CBD can benefit people with chronic pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other conditions, and is vastly different than marijuana containing THC.
Recently, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal officials have released statements arguing CBD is a marijuana product.
The Des Moines Register reports there has been a spike in unregulated sales of CBD oil across the state, as business owners and customers fear the potential of police raids. And several business owners continue to argue they are selling the products legally, but for now, most agree Iowa's marijuana law is murky and more information is needed.