CBD oil marketing draws Dickinson County response

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Dickinson County Attorney Jon Martin has been researching the positions of other county attorneys around Iowa regarding the sale and use of cannabidiol oil.
Photo by Russ Mitchell

FDA hearings about cannabidiol oil are planned in May, and Iowa lawmakers voted to allow conditional use of the cannabis compound at the end of 2018.

But that doesn't mean Dickinson County residents have legal access to CBD oil-based products as a health supplement. Dickinson County Attorney Jon Martin said someone in a "health-related field" has a misconception about the legality of selling the oil, which is derived from hemp, which is in the same family of plants as marijuana. Dickinson County deputies became aware of sales potentially taking place in Dickinson County.

"I've had people come in here and try to convince me that 'now it's legal' and I say, 'no, it's not,'" Martin said. "I know it was trying to be marketed … apparently somebody got convinced. I'm just trying to avoid problems from people who don't understand what's going on."

Martin's office has researched federal and state statutes and consulted with other law enforcement agencies including the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. The dialogue confirmed the research of other Iowa county attorneys.

"Technically, it could be a felony for delivery of a controlled substance if you're selling it or giving it to people — and then simple possession for people who are just possessing it," Martin said. "That would be serious misdemeanor level."

CBD has been credited with easing pain, anxiety and inflammation — the FDA is still researching the claims. Under Iowa law, patients with medical cannabidiol cards can get the compound — at one of five dispensaries across the state — to ease conditions related to cancer, seizures, Crohn's disease, untreatable pain, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or HIV, ALS, Parkinson's disease and terminal illness.

"I think the intentions are good — to help people get healthy," Martin said. "I understand it has positive benefits for people who are suffering from certain ailments, but, like any other controlled substance, you have to obtain it in the proper way — and you have to distribute it in the proper way."

Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill permits the production of hemp, as long as it does not contain more than 0.3% THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Martin thinks the legislation may have added to the confusion about CBD oil. He said he doesn't want someone who is innocently trying to market the oil to face serious repercussions. Language in Iowa's Medical Cannabidiol Act is rather strict. Cannabidiol dispensaries have to be approved by the Iowa Department of Health.

Any CBD oil purchased online, over the counter or marketed and sold through independent salespersons or affiliates is a violation of the laws of the state of Iowa, Martin also advised.

"This is an ever-changing area of law and an area unknown to many people," he said. "While there may be apparent benefits to the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, until the laws of the state of Iowa are changed through legislative action and the safety of such products can be ensured, these products can only be obtained, produced, used and possessed in accordance with Iowa law."

All law enforcement agencies in Dickinson County have been notified regarding the county attorney's position. Martin encouraged residents and visitors in the Iowa Great Lakes to govern themselves accordingly.

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