Iowa officials have suspended sales at a popular hemp retailer in Des Moines, Dispensary, and stopped the business’ second location from opening in Ingersoll.
The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services suspended Despenser’s license for 30 days, barring the business from selling any edible hemp products on Fourth Avenue in downtown Des Moines.
The agency said in a Nov. 14 letter obtained by the Des Moines Register that the businesses “knowingly violated Iowa law” regarding its product listings and made “intentional misrepresentations” to state officials about its intent to sell non-compliant hemp products. .
And because the business has faced scrutiny from the state in the past, the agency said it will not consider its application for a second location at the former Badwaters menswear store on Ingersoll Ave. “Unless the business demonstrates compliance” in the current store.
Despensary’s chief operating officer, Sabrina Bergloff, pushed back against the state’s allegations, saying that Despensary’s products comply with state regulations and that HHS officials had not reported any issues until the letter was received earlier this month.
Bergloff also told the Register that dispensary officials believe they are being targeted by the state and are investigating legal action.
“Our attorney, who has been in this industry for over 40 years, believes we are being targeted because of how (the state) is handling things,” Bergloff said.
Hemp products that can be purchased for humans can be sold under federal and state law as long as the amount of THC — or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive substance — does not exceed 0.3%.
These products have grown in popularity in states like Iowa, where recreational marijuana is illegal and medical marijuana is strictly regulated.
More: High on hemp? Why Iowa’s Medical Marijuana Laws May Increase the Use of Edible THC
He said the dispensary does sell floral products, even though it doesn’t have Iowa state approval.
State dispenser discipline has been in effect since August 23, when the business submitted a list of products for review.
According to Iowa law, the Office of Cannabis Law at Iowa HHS must review all hemp products available for sale by licensed hemp retailers, which must include laboratory-certified documentation of the products’ ingredients and potency.
In August, a list of dispensary products included several hemp-based flower products that did not meet testing standards set by Iowa law, according to the state. As a result, the business removed these non-compliant products from its list.
Despensary resubmitted those floral products as part of the list on Sept. 2, but the state again said it didn’t provide enough documentation.
On Sept. 30, state officials confirmed that the dispensary was selling uncertified floral products in its store even though they were not approved for sale by HHS.
“The dispensary has notified the department that it has stopped selling these products,” according to the state’s letter. “They also removed these products from the product list. Despite making these representations to the department, the dispensary continued to sell non-compliant hemp products without the department’s approval.”
Dispensary said the state did not notify them of non-compliant products.
Bergloff failed to notify the state that its September product list was out of order, even though Iowa guidelines require state retailers to be notified within 30 days of problems with their product list.
Since she did not receive any response from the state, Berglof’s understanding of the law shows that she was able to sell those products. She said the notice sent to the dispensary owner earlier this month was the first they had heard from the state on the new product list.
“If you don’t get back to me, he’ll tell me it’s approved. You’ve never had anything to do with me,” she said. “… They’re not going to tell me it’s wrong or tell me I can’t sell it when they know what I’m putting out. The funny thing is that it meets their guidelines. So they leave it up to them to punish me and punish me whenever they feel like it.”
Bergloff also said the state-licensed supplier has met all of the state’s requirements to sell hemp flower products through Iowa retailers.
“The state is not following their own guidelines,” Bergloff said.
Failure to comply with the restraining order could result in additional penalties, including the permanent revocation of a dispensary’s license to sell edible hemp in Iowa. He said the state would cooperate with law enforcement agencies to ensure compliance with the law, which could result in civil or criminal penalties for business officials.
Despite the ban, the dispensary’s Fourth Avenue location is still open and selling edible mushroom products, Bergloff said.
Bergloff also said they plan to move forward with plans next month to hold a soft opening at Despensary’s Ingersoll location within the confines of the ban.