Greetings from the remote wilds of the Midwest, far behind the rows of corn and aroma of hog farms. When it comes to legalization, Iowa is one of the bottom ten states for cannabis legalization progress. Even though we poll and vote, even though most lawmakers are on our side, it’s still an uphill battle.

The few vape and head shops we can find try their best to meet demand, but even the 100% legal operations get harassed “just because.” Recently we have gotten the Iowa Hemp Statute as of December 2020, which is a grudging token gesture of what little they are decriminalizing only because they absolutely have to.

In this oppressive weed desert, you take what you can get. So I was absolutely overjoyed to discover CBD / delta 8 on the shelf at a local vape shop, Great Alternatives II at historic Valley Junction – right by the red caboose. And it was hemp flower, no less.


  • Potent effects for CBD / delta 8
  • Reasonable price
  • Energetic and uplifting entourage effect
  • Available here for now


  • It’s still hemp
  • Low quality
  • Not likely to stick around in this legal climate

Recommendations: Larger quantities than 1G would be nice. Work on that flavor.

Update: Hemp Living USA has turned into a very sketch company!

Way back when we made this review, your choices for flower in Iowa were about exactly zilch. Since then, companies have discovered that they can ship just about any cannabis product anywhere as long as it is “hemp-derived” (from cannabis with <0.3% D9THC). Meanwhile, I signed up for Hemp Living USA’s mailing list. And they’ve just about gone full “gas station” mode.


For one thing, they’re hyping Cake cartridges. Cake is not only a sketch brand, it is one of those illegal brands that are aggressively pushed with social media shilling and unsourced mystery oil from who-knows-what. So I’m really not recommending Hemp Living USA anymore. For better hemp flower that ships to Iowa, Botany Farms has our recommended seal of approval.

Take this review with a grain of salt!

This is Iowa we’re talking about. Chances are this product wouldn’t attract much praise in a swinging fully-legalized state, but finding it in the heart of Des Moines is like reporting a unicorn sighting.

With that said, may I address my fellow old farts for a sidebar? Being Generation X, I remember the height of prohibition and how we were glad to get our hands on anything. Doubtless we veterans have blazed a few questionable crops on the all-black-market in our time. What I’m saying is, give hemp a chance. Modern cannabis and hemp agriculture has disassembled this plant to its founding cannabinoids and terpenes and rebuilt it as bionic weed. What we now consider the lower end of the cannabis spectrum still probably passes for decent weed compared to the ditchweed we used to score from the corner plug. The most venerated stoner back then could name, what, two strains of weed? Cannabis strains have pedigrees and coats of arms now.


This is also my first time trying (drum roll) delta 8! I have to admit, I see what all the fuss is about now. While other DabConnection staff reviewers have been latching on to the new delta 8 trend, I’ve held back, skeptical about the reported “milder effects,” thinking that I’d be disappointed.

But really, when it’s potent enough, you can see delta 8 as “diet weed” or “weed lite.” Truly and surely, it is not as potent in the brain-buzz department as full-on THC. But it does have a traceable effect, much stronger than CBD by itself. You definitely feel it, but instead of describing it as “weaker” I’d just call it “different.” It’s weed without the “stoned” part! Now sure, I’m a fan of THC as much as the next person, but I actually like it better when I can enjoy an experience and still get something done too. I’m too much of a workaholic to enjoy being plastered to the couch too dumb to even follow Rick and Morty. I like delta 8 fine, and I’d still like it even if I was in a state with a full-on adult-use dispo on every corner. Not to say I’d use delta 8 exclusively, but it suits my busy-bee lifestyle.


Meet Hemp Living CBD / Delta 8 Hemp Flower

I got two 1-gram mini-cans of flower, one Hybrid (Girl Scout Cookies) and one Sativa (Blue Dream). These are made by Hemp Living USA in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin (license 475321-HP). They are a gram apiece of hemp flower which says that it’s “keif-infused,” which certainly helps on the potency department.

Stats: Both the Girl Scout Cookies and the Blue Dream report CBD 17%, delta 8 18%, THC 0.1%. Now, what do cannabis strains even mean when you’re talking about hemp? It is indeed possible to create hemp counterparts of popular cannabis strains, via either selective breeding from the original strain or splicing it with hemp and selecting the phenotypes from there.


Both strains were therapeutic for the body and energetic for the mind

I started with the hybrid, GSC. It took smoking (yes, in a pipe, like a savage) half a gram before the effects really kicked in in full. The CBD sank into my bones like a welcome sauna, cracking joints I forgot I had. The delta 8 apologized to my endocannbinoid system for not being real THC but did its best to make it up to me anyway, resulting in a mild, tingly buzz I’d describe more as “really strong coffee” than “weak weed.” But oh my goodness did I feel great! Ten years younger. Had to resist the urge to do cartwheels. Part of that is attributed to the caryophyllene, the dominant terpene of this strain.

Next day it was the sativa’s turn, the Blue Dream. Seeing as how the hybrid went into my system like wildfire, I was bracing myself for the impact of a strain leaning even further to the Indica end of the spectrum. No need to worry, as I forgot that myrcene is the dominant terpene of Blue Dream, and in fact it had more potent, THC-like effects than the Girl Scouts. Since delta 8 on its best day doesn’t fit all your endocannabinoid receptors’ sockets, the myrcene worked together with it to convince me that this was “I Can’t Believe It’s Not THC!” It was still energetic, but with a mild whiff of an actual “stoned” sensation after, again, half a gram. It was still therapeutic on the body level, since CBD is CBD no matter what strain.

Neither strain left me with the annoying fuzzy-headedness that actual THC marijuana would. Both of them were crack-of-dawn, rise-and-shine, morning strains, pairing well with an espresso shot.

The flavor was OK for hemp

Honestly, neither strain was anything I’d write home about in the flavor department, but I’m trying to be nice. This is hemp, after all, and the overriding taste of hemp itself is that of grass. But of the two strains, the Girl Scout Cookies was mildly sour and tangy, no sweetness coming through at all. The Blue Dream was far tastier, with an earthy, skunky character and a hint of chocolate. This is a different experience from either strain if you’d have them in full THC form.

But let’s not kid ourselves; hemp tastes like grass, and the best terpene genes cultivation science has to offer can only elevate it to seasoned grass. The Midwest is still taking baby steps towards a cannabis industry, so we’re tasting the earliest efforts of cultivators. The best is yet to come.

What a reasonable price!

A mere $13 per gram is the cheapest herb you could ask for under the circumstances, I’d think. It’s the average going price for medical flower in most states, but taking into account that this was Iowa, I consider myself lucky that I didn’t have to part with major limbs for the privilege.

The future of delta-8 hemp in Iowa?

Excited at my discovery, your humble author drove all over town to investigate other vape / smoke / head shops in Des Moines. Besides Great Alternatives, there is one other place in the heart of downtown at 4th and Walnut named “Despensary,” which boldly claims that they can ship hemp flower delta 8. I might try them on that sometimes.

Most shops do not carry hemp flower, but several do stock vapes. Iowa is in a spot where they’re trying to allow better medical support and a hemp crop, but on the other hand wants to ban CBD, delta 8, vapes, even pet treats with CBD! So how long this lasts is anybody’s guess. Great Alternatives II, Valley Junction has my vote for the time being.

In conclusion, until Iowa joins the nation-wide bandwagon on the legalization front, this is one of the only retail flower experiences you’re going to get without the 3-hour drive to Illinois. And who wants to do that with gas prices the way they are now?

Readers, have you, too, experienced the novelty of delta 8 / CBD hemp flower? Is this perhaps the true herb for our times? Weigh in with your two cents here in the comments or in our classy little forum hangout.



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