IA: A Question Of Legality

Photo Credit: CarrollsPaper

Every morning, Jacky Sklenar bends down to administer an oil to her 10-year-old son, Nolan, to fend off the seizures that had wracked his body every day for three years.

It’s called cannabidiol and is derived from hemp plants — the less-potent cousins of marijuana.

And it works. Nolan hasn’t had a seizure for more than a year.

Sklenar, a rural Glidden resident, buys the oil from Heartland Hemp Inc. in Urbandale, at the direction of a neurologist. She’s wary of buying it online or locally.

“There needs to be some sort of regulations,” she said. “I just don’t know if you would get the product you paid for.”

But even if Sklenar wanted to buy it in Carroll, she couldn’t.

On Dec. 27, Carroll police officers confiscated all cannabidiol (CBD) products from local shops Nature Ammil and Healing Arts Center without any notice or warrant to seize the products.

The police department received word from the Iowa Department of Public Safety that until a dispensary is established by the state there is no legal sale, distribution or manufacturing of medical CBD allowed.

The memo stated that dispensaries will be identified by the end of this year.

This was news to Carrie Bluml, the owner of Nature Ammil.

Both Bluml and Jenna Anthofer, the owner of the Healing Arts Center, declined to comment for this article at the behest of their attorneys.

For CBD to be lawful, it must be derived from non-psychoactive hemp, not the tetrahydrocannabinol-laden (THC) marijuana plants that people smoke to get high. Bluml continues to carry products made of hemp oil.

Over recent years, CBD has become widely used as an over-the-counter — or in some states, prescribed — drug for treating inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety, seizures and more.

The uses of medical CBD for treating chronic pains and different neurological disorders is being studied at several academic research centers such as the Center for Medical Cannabis Research in San Diego, California, and others around the world.

Unlike the medical CBD being legally sold in states like Colorado, what parents like Sklenar are buying is not prescribed for medical uses.

In 2017, Iowa state lawmakers adopted a law that says a person may recommend, possess, use, transport, deliver or administer medical CBD in certain situations.

In order for this code to be followed, though, there must be a registered dispensary within the state that can test and regulate the drugs and provide background checks for consumers and manufacturers. As of now, it is illegal to prescribe any CBD oil or creams to treat medical aliments.

A lot of the confusion has stemmed from the difference between medical CBD (which contains THC) and hemp-derived CBD, which contains little to none.

Both hemp oil and CBD oil do come from different strains of the same plant: the Cannabis sativa L. Hemp oil is produced from seeds of the plant, while CBD is made from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the Cannabis sativa plant.

Both CBD oil and hemp oil contain trace amounts of THC. The concentration in hemp is around 0.3 percent, while in CBD it can be a little higher — between 1 and 5 percent, according to honestmarijuana.com. Hemp oil has a low concentration of CBD at 3.5 percent, while CBD oil is higher.

The following products are currently legal: the CBD that is extracted by a chemical process from mature stalks of the plant, fiber from the stalks, oil, cake made from the seeds and sterilized seeds incapable of germination.

Carroll Police Chief Brad Burke said the CBD products removed from Nature Ammil and Healing Arts Center tested positive for THC. The Carroll Police Department passed the products on to the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Narcotics Enforcement, which will handle any further testing, investigations or charges.

So far, the owners of Nature Ammil and Healing Arts Studio have not been criminally charged.

After losing her product, Bluml contacted Jason Karimi, the executive director of Iowa Patients for Medical Marijuana, who has been helping Bluml work through the laws regarding whether hemp-derived CBD is legal to sell.

“While police have a hard job, Carroll police have been very lazy about doing theirs,” Karimi said. “By citing advisory memos from people who are not lawyers, their disservice to Carroll’s community has become apparent. Hopefully, moving forward, the police will retract their claim that hemp-sourced CBD is illegal until they can show what law justifies their warrantless seizures.”

Police officers also confiscated hemp lotions from Walgreens Pharmacy, but those products tested negative for THC, Burke said.

Sklenar discovered hemp-derived cannabis oil after reaching out to other families who had children with epilepsy.

Nolan has a range of ailments that affect his body and mind, including epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

Before the oil, Sklenar tried four different prescription drugs that were ineffective and left Nolan with other illnesses, Sklenar said. One medication hurt Nolan’s pancreas so much that he was later diagnosed with pancreatitis.

After they began giving Nolan CBD oil, they noticed a resounding change, Sklenar said.

“He knows the feeling of it,” Sklenar said. “I think it just calms him down. He is a lot more workable with us when he’s had it. He suffers from a lot of anxiety from things like going to school or getting in the van. He just doesn’t know what to expect. It’s helped a lot with his anxiety.”