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Some brewers say Iowa’s THC rules misinterpret new hemp law and could spell the end of some drinks

Iowa’s plan to enforce a new law regulating consumable hemp products has sparked resistance from brewers and retailers who say proposed rules could ban a broader range of beverage products than the law intended.

The law, House File 2605, imposes potency limits and a minimum age of 21 to purchase the products. It was signed by Governor Kim Reynolds on May 17, despite her “concerns” about the bill, citing the need to “protect minors from dangerous and intoxicating products.”

Scott and Whitney Selig of Lua Brewing created Climbing Kites, a cannabis-infused sparkling water.Scott and Whitney Selig of Lua Brewing created Climbing Kites, a cannabis-infused sparkling water.

Scott and Whitney Selig of Lua Brewing created Climbing Kites, a cannabis-infused sparkling water.

By law, a consumable hemp product may contain no more than 4 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per serving, and no more than 10 mg per package. THC is a psychoactive ingredient that gives you a ‘high’ feeling when you consume it.

However, the Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed rules define any “closed container beverage” as one serving per container — meaning any beverage with a potency of more than 4 mg of total THC would be excluded from sale. .

“Any beverage containing > 4 mg of total THC will be prohibited and rejected from a registrant’s proposed product list,” the department wrote in a frequently asked questions and rules memo sent to interested parties on May 24 and obtained by the Register.

Iowa brewers argue that is not the intent of the law, and they warned that the rules could mean major cuts to their products. One major manufacturer said that if a resolution was not reached it would consider legal action.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to a request for comment on the memo and draft rules.

Breweries could see big cuts to THC beverage lines under the rules

These proposed rules would result in significant cuts to the beverage lineup of several Iowa-based brewers. Climbing Kites, the THC-infused drinks sold by Lua Brewing and Big Grove Brewery, would be “dramatically impacted” by the new rules, CEO Dave Moore wrote in an email to the Register.

“Only one of our products would comply, and we would lose products that represent approximately 80% of our sales,” Moore wrote. “We would also have a very large inventory of finished products and packaging materials that would no longer be usable. This ruling would have serious financial consequences for our company.”

Lua Brewing's "Climbing kites" sparkling water is seen in a cooler at the Despensary, 221 4th St., on Friday, September 29, 2023 in Des Moines.Lua Brewing's "Climbing kites" sparkling water is seen in a cooler at the Despensary, 221 4th St., on Friday, September 29, 2023 in Des Moines.

Lua Brewing’s “Climbing Kites” sparkling water is on display in a cooler at the Despensary, 221 4th St., on Friday, September 29, 2023 in Des Moines.

Field Day Brewing Co. in North Liberty, which sells the THC-infused Day Dreamer drink, would see a similar hit to its inventory, director of operations Dan Caraher told the Register. And the company’s previous plans to reduce higher potency products to meet the letter of the law could now also be banned.

“Once the law came out, we were going to drop our 15 (mg drinks) down to 10,” Caraher said. “And we ordered labels for that. And then… this proposal came out.”

In a May 28 email to sales partners, Caraher said the company was seeing a “large influx of purchase orders” for higher strength cans as consumers stock up before July 1, when the law takes effect. And he wrote that the company planned to permanently switch one of its product lines to 4 mg, if the new rules remain in place.

“It’s a little bit against the statute and liquor selection, so to speak,” Caraher said.

More: Iowa brewers say Iowa’s regulation of THC products is helpful, but not perfect

The CEO of Climbing Kites hopes for a solution, but does not rule out legal action

Breweries have been in contact with HHS since the draft rules were published, but it remains to be seen if any changes will be made.

Climbing Kites’ Moore said he was optimistic that companies and the state could come to a “sensible conclusion” on the rules, but he did not rule out a possible lawsuit.

“If we cannot find an amicable solution that allows companies to continue operating within the parameters set forth in the law, we will take legal action as a last resort to protect our interests,” Moore wrote. “Again, we believe we can resolve this with HHS and the state without going through a legal process.”

Galen Bacharier covers the Statehouse and politics for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or (573) 219-7440, and follow him on Twitter @galenbacharier.

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: Iowa’s new hemp law: Draft rules would limit all drinks to 4 mg of THC