Rick Wagaman, co-owner of HW CBD in West Des Moines, talks to a guest during an opening reception for the store with the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.  Submitted photo
Rick Wagaman, co-owner of HW CBD in West Des Moines, talks to a guest during an opening reception for the store with the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. Submitted photo

Nothing says mainstream Iowa like a chamber of commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony. A particular ribbon-cutting held last month in West Des Moines was likely among the first times an Iowa chamber has celebrated the opening of a CBD storefront, though.

 

With a snip of a ribbon, HW CBD became one of the newest retail CBD locations in Iowa. Stores like these may also help sharpen the focus in what had been a fuzzy gray area of contention between retail entrepreneurs and law enforcement in Iowa, as new state rules pave the way for the sale of legal hemp products in Iowa.  


Effective March 3, legislative rules went into effect for a 2020 statute that established a registration system for CBD retailers and producers. 


To date, nearly 500 manufacturers, distributors and retailers have completed registration to legally produce, distribute or operate consumable hemp/CBD stores across the state, as well as some locations outside of Iowa, according to data tracked by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. 


Threase Harms, who has lobbied the Legislature for several years in favor of registering CBD sales, said the June 2020 legislation finally opened up the opportunity for selling a wide range of CBD products legally. Harms, a professional lobbyist, owner of Advocacy Strategies and a member of the Windsor Heights City Council, persuaded her husband, Rick Wagaman, a marketing and sales professional with 30 years of experience, to dive into their first retail entrepreneurial venture together. 


One of the first things that customers see as they enter the store is a notice painted neatly onto the wall informing them that a medical cannabis card is not required to purchase items in the store. 


“There is a huge learning curve,” Harms said. “Many people are still learning that you don’t have to have a medical cannabis card to buy CBD.” The couple says that education about the products will be a cornerstone feature of their services. 


After deciding on a location in February, the couple’s registration was approved by the Department of Inspections and Appeals on March 11, a week after they submitted the application. They soft-opened the store on April 16.

 

Meeting the strict Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals requirements was by far the biggest challenge, Wagaman said. The process required them to complete information about every single product the store would sell, including a certificate of analysis for each product, he noted. “That was about a third of what we had to do [to start the business].”  

 

The effort has been worthwhile, he said during a reception following the ribbon-cutting. 

“We want to be an upper echelon store with a selection of products,” Wagaman said. “We want people to be able to get better as soon as possible, which often involves switching to other products to find what works. Every person’s experience is different.” 


Kymm Loeffler, who has sold CBD products for the past four years at the Corner Store Apothecary in Cedar Rapids, provided advice and expertise to Harms and Wagaman in opening their store. The number of CBD stores that have popped up in the Cedar Rapids area in the past several years “has just been crazy,” she said at the ribbon-cutting. She has been an advocate for licensing. 


“We don’t want to see CBD sold in gas stations or at [unlicensed] mom-and-pop shops,” she said. Although she is a nurse by profession, neither she nor any shop owner is allowed to diagnose conditions or prescribe particular CBD treatments for customers. “We can only educate and suggest products,” Loeffler said.  


Loeffler said that educating elected officials and law enforcement in eastern Iowa has been a priority for her to help advance the proper sales of CBD products. 


“I just want people to feel safe, and to patronize stores that are licensed,” she said.