When Margaret Zimmerman began feeling negative side effects from pain medication after heart surgery, she turned to Cannibidiol, or CBD oil, as an alternative.
"The opioids just don't work for me in my body, so I started using CBD products," Zimmerman, a Maquoketa, Iowa, resident, said. "Since I started the products, in three weeks I haven't even had to take a Tylenol. It's amazing how you can sit there and realize you're not in pain anymore. I have chronic pain, so that's where it's helped."
After a new shop, Your CBD Store, opened in Davenport last month, she began making the trip to the Quad-Cities to buy CBD products, rather than buying online. Zimmerman loved the store so much, she decided to work there, she said.
Becky and Nate Ramker opened Your CBD Store, 2824 W. Locust St., after several family members began using the products in an attempt to ease anxiety and other symptoms.
"We're trying to get people away from opioids and all of the pain medicines," Becky Ramker said. "And it's made a big difference. Our daughter-in-law was having seizures, and after using CBD, she's not anymore. My brother has anxiety really bad and it's helped him drop some medications. We've only been open a couple of weeks but we've had people driving from a couple of hours away because doctors are recommending CBD to get them off prescription drugs."
CBD is a compound found in cannabis and hemp that has gained popularity in recent years for its therapeutic properties. Proponents claim it's a natural alternative to pain killers and can help relieve inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures and other conditions, without the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
Most advocates argue CBD is legal under the 2014 Farm Bill, which defines "industrial hemp" as any part of the cannabis plant with less than 0.3 percent THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the component in marijuana that produces the "high."
Becky Ramker said all of Your CBD Store's products are made by the parent company, which was founded in Florida and has around 40 stores across the country. The Davenport store is the first in Iowa. It sells CBD oil, water solubles, edibles, tinctures, creams and treats for pets.
"Ninety-nine percent of our stuff has zero-percent THC. The only thing that has THC is the tincture," she said. "But it doesn't give you a head high. It just makes your body relaxed."
She said the store's CBD products have fewer ingredients and no fillers, compared with other CBD on the market. With opioid use, overdoses and deaths on the rise nationwide, Becky Ramker argued CBD is safer than prescription medication that can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
CBD has been sold at health stores and vape shops across the area for years, but Becky Ramker said she wanted to create a different kind of environment for people seeking out the products.
Zimmerman calls the store, "bright, open, with a spa-like atmosphere."
"My parents use CBD but they wouldn't feel comfortable going into a vape shop, so we kind of catered to those people," she said, adding she wants to help guide customers through the buying process and teach them about each product.
A couple of doors down in the same strip mall on Locust Street, Davenport's new Veterans Affairs health clinic is set to open. The owners said they hope patients will take advantage of having the store nearby, as some proponents argue CBD can ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
State regulated v. over-the-counter CBD
Last winter, Shelly Meier was hanging a banner outside of her shop, Nutrition Outlet in Muscatine, when a sheriff's squad car pulled up.
"That's when they came in and raided me," she said. "I tried to explain that it's a different product. This is hemp, it's not the same thing as marijuana. It has nothing to do with that. This is crazy."
In January, Muscatine police claimed CBD products from five local stores. Law enforcement in Carroll, Iowa, also raided businesses for CBD. Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren cited a statement by the Iowa Department of Public Health which argued retailers are illegally selling CBD products in the state.
Meier said she lost about half of her business after the raid, and still hasn't brought CBD back into her store. Shelly Servadio was another affected business owner, and she said she was forced to close her business, Limitless RN, after losing CBD sales.
"I was never able to retrieve my products even though they were from industrial hemp and had no THC," Servadio said. "I had to close my business. It was a total loss for me and it was devastating."
This week, Randy Mayer, director of the state health department's Office of Medical Cannabidiol stood by the department's statement, adding unregulated CBD is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"In working with the attorney general's office, we have determined that those over-the-counter products are not legal in the state of Iowa," Mayer said. "Some local law enforcement have chosen to take action while others have chosen not to. Our department is not regulatory in anyway, so we have no authority over those products. We put out the statement that our opinion is it's not legal, but we can't enforce that."
The statement came as the state health department was readying to announce the locations of five new licensed medical cannabis dispensaries, including one in Davenport. Iowa law allows the license holders to produce and sell CBD with a THC content of up to 3 percent, Mayer said.
Patients with CBD cards will be allowed to purchase oils, creams, edibles and other products from the dispensaries, he said. The products are all marijuana-derived and have varying THC contents.
He expects all five dispensaries to open in December.
While only two Iowa counties have taken action to rid stores of unregulated CBD, the Muscatine County attorney said he stands by his decision to remove the products. With his position up for election this year, it's also become a talking point at political forums.
Ostergren's opponent, Bill Tharp of West Liberty, commented on the issue at an Oct. 2 forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.
"That property was taken from someone else and it wasn't tested, and then afterward it was destroyed with no criminal prosecution ... no civil prosecution," Tharp said. "I agree (with Ostergren's comments) in the extent that there needs to be a lot of work done at the statehouse and by the legislature to determine what is permissible and what is not. But as far as going out and taking it and not making any kind of investigation, that's just clearly wrong."
For now, the two business owners said they're being vocal about the potential benefits of CBD and hope Muscatine stores will be allowed to sell the products in the future.
In Davenport, Becky Ramker said she's already sold products to several Muscatine customers.