An Ankeny business owner was arrested Wednesday for allegedly selling products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, while unlicensed by the state — the first charge of its kind in Polk County, according to the county attorney’s office.
Ankeny police arrested Lacie Navin, 33, of Des Moines at her business, Your CBD Store, at 833 E. First St., said Lt. Heath Osberg, spokesperson for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers from the Mid-Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force twice purchased CBD products at Navin’s store, according to a criminal complaint. The complaint did not say whether the officers were in uniform or working undercover, and Navin could not be reached for comment.
The first purchases, on Oct. 15, were a pack of CBD gummies, hemp extract oil and CBD lotion. Lab testing showed all the products contained cannabidiol, according to the complaint.
Officers went to Navin’s store again Monday and purchased another pack of CBD gummies. Navin was arrested two days later and charged with two counts of controlled substance violation and failure to pay tax on an unlawful substance.
Navin’s arrest was a part of a task force investigation of businesses selling CBD in central Iowa that began after complaints had been filed in multiple counties, Osberg said.
Officers were unable to find CBD at some stores, Osberg said. At the others, officers warned owners to remove the products from their shelves or face charges. Osberg declined to identify the businesses the officers investigated.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said Navin’s arrest marked the first time someone had been charged in the county with selling CBD. He said he will prosecute cases if law enforcement officials bring them to his office.
Both Osberg and Sarcone said they did not know who complained about the businesses.
CBD is derived from hemp, a member of the same plant family, cannabis, as marijuana, though it typically does not contain a significant amount of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive substance. Despite the growing presence of CBD in the Des Moines area, it is still illegal to sell or possess over-the-counter CBD in Iowa, said Nathan Blake, Iowa’s deputy attorney general.
Sellers of CBD are “still considered in possession of marijuana, THC or no THC,” Osberg said.
Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a national grocery store chain with a location in West Des Moines, sells CBD products. But on Monday, two plainclothes officers with the task force visited the local store and told employees that the products needed to be removed from shelves, said store manager Steven Keymer. He said he ended up sending the products to Fresh Thyme stores in states where CBD is legal.
“It’s a bummer because it sold really well and there’s a huge customer base of people who want the stuff,” said Keymer.
Campbell’s Nutrition, a local health food store in Urbandale and Des Moines, has sold CBD products for four years, said owner Diane Lahodny. She said Des Moines police came to her store twice to ask about her CBD products — once in June and again in September.
Lahodny said she primarily sold CBD topicals, like lotions and balms, and that she showed the officers certifications that her products contained zero THC. When they asked her to remove products from her shelves, she said, she asked them which ones and they expressed confusion, then left and didn’t return.
She said that after she heard the news about Navin’s arrest, she stopped her CBD sales Thursday.
Lahodny said she feels badly for her customers, mainly senior citizens, who bought the products to help alleviate pain or treat other ailments.
“I think it was overkill for a young lady to be thrown in jail and have her mugshot all over the news,” Lahodny said. “I don’t think they can make the rounds to every single person. I think it’s a little too late to pull it back in.”
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Navin’s arrest comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 22 sent warning letters to the national company Your CBD Store, which includes Navin’s store, and 14 other companies warning that they were selling unapproved and misbranded drugs for people and animals. It warned that the companies were also making unverified claims about their products, such as claiming they could cure opioid addiction, prevent conditions like diabetes and provide joint pain relief.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office saw the warning sent out by the FDA, but it did not forward that notification to other agencies in the state, Blake, the deputy attorney general, told the Register.
CBD Oil CBD in Iowa: Legal or not?
Confusion over the legality of CBD started with the passage of the 2018 federal Farm Bill, which authorized production of hemp containing less than 0.3% THC and the use of hemp and its derivatives across state lines.
CBD supporters saw it as a major step, paving the way for CBD oils, lotions and creams to be sold in stores. In October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new rules that helped govern how farmers grow industrial hemp.
Under Iowa law, however, CBD is still a controlled substance. The Legislature passed the Hemp Act, paving the way for legalization, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it in May. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture still needs to approve the state’s hemp plan, which isn’t expected to happen until early next year, said Robin Pruisner, hemp administrator for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
Until then, the sale of CBD oil remains illegal in Iowa, except by a small number of approved pharmacies. And even if CBD eventually is removed from the controlled substances list, not all CBD products will be legal because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to rule on the permissibility of ingestible CBD products like gummies.
So while CBD lotions may become legal, candy would not be, Pruisner said.
“It’s the wild west of CBD right now,” Pruisner said. “We’re in this crazy awkward time that we’re about to legalize the production of it, but not the consumption and the tolerances and testing of it.”
Linh Ta covers retail for the Register. Reach her at [email protected] or 515-284-8198.
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