Iowa lags behind other states, continues criminalizing cannabis consumers
Last update: November 10, 2020
Iowa is lagging behind other states both in the nation as a whole and in its region on marijuana policy. Unlike 31 other states, Iowa continues to arrest individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Neighboring Illinois and South Dakota have legalized cannabis for adults, while Nebraska, Minnesota, and Missouri have decriminalized simple possession.
But in Iowa, first-offense possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, one of the most severe first-offense penalties in the country. These draconian penalties hit low-income and communities of color the hardest.
According to data complied by the ACLU, Black Iowans are nearly eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana prohibition than white individuals. Let your lawmakers know it’s past time Iowa rethink its unequal, unjust approach to cannabis.
Revision to medical CBD program signed by governor
On June 29, 2020, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a bill (HF 2589) that expands the list of medical conditions that qualify for medical cannabis preparations, revises the amount of THC that can be possessed, and makes other changes — both good and bad — to the program. The new law, which took effect on July 1, 2020:
Revises the 3% THC cap to instead allow products with a total of 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days, with exceptions for cases where providers specify a specific, greater quantity is needed;
Adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and autism with self-harm to the list of qualifying conditions;
Allows any patient with “chronic pain” — instead of “untreatable pain” — to qualify, thus greatly expanding the number of pain patients who qualify;
Allows podiatrists, physicians' assistants, and advance practice nurses to recommend cannabis;
Removes the Department of Transportation’s role in ID cards; and
Allows property owners and employers to ban medical cannabis use and provides that workers' compensation and health care do not have to cover medical cannabis.
In 2019, Gov. Reynolds vetoed a bill that would have allowed patients purchase medical cannabis preparations with up to 25 grams of THC over 90 days. The current default limit — 4.5 grams every 90 days — is insufficient for many patients.
Sadly, two of the state’s five medical cannabidiol dispensaries permanently closed in spring 2020. One owner noted that operating was not economically viable. Two replacement licenses were awarded in September, one to the Iowa Cannabis Company East in Iowa City and one to the Cannabis Patient Network in Council Bluffs. Iowa’s law continues to have some major shortcomings that drive up prices, including that it prohibits cannabis in its natural, flower form. Iowa borders Illinois, where cannabis preparations — including flower — are available to any adult who is 21 or older.