Iowa’s legislature is back; reform on the horizon
Last update: January 25, 2018
The Iowa Legislature is back in session, and there is renewed hope for common-sense marijuana policy reform. In mid-January, a Senate subcommittee recommended passage of SF 432, a bill that would reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. The bill would change the penalty for first-offense possession of marijuana under five grams from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor.
The bill, though not perfect, would be a step in the right direction for Iowa. You see, the Iowa Legislative Services Agency studied the bill and reported that this reform would result in “considerable fewer jail admissions” and “savings to local governments.”
The fiscal note also detailed how marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects the African American community. In FY 2016, 18% of the persons convicted for first-offense marijuana possession were African American, yet African Americans only make up 3.5% of the Iowa population and have nearly equal marijuana usage rates as white Iowans.
Lawmakers enact low-THC oil program, will offer limited relief to some Iowan patients
During its 2017 legislative session, the Legislature enacted several improvements to Iowa’s low-THC cannabis oil law. The revised program will allow patients with more conditions to qualify (the original law only protected certain patients with seizures), protect patients from arrest and prosecution (not just conviction), and permit in-state access to oils with no more than three percent THC. While patients can enroll in the program immediately, they will not have access to their medicine until December 1, 2018. Please check out MPP’s full summary of the program here.
While this reform is an important victory for some patients, most seriously ill Iowans will be left behind. Many patients find greater amounts of THC are crucial to the relief they need from their medical conditions, and this severely limited program does not go far enough. If you are a Hawkeye, please email your lawmakers and ask them to support a comprehensive medical marijuana program this year. You can let them know an April 2015 Quinnipiac poll found that 87% of Iowans support the legalization of marijuana for medical use!
Are you a medical professional, patient, law enforcement official, or member of the clergy?
If you are supportive and are a medical professional, a seriously ill patient who might benefit from medical marijuana, a law enforcement official, a clergy member, or a member of the legal community, or you know someone else who is, please email [email protected] to see how you can be of special help. Please include your address or nine-digit ZIP code.
Learn more about Iowa’s marijuana laws
Iowa has very harsh marijuana laws. 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. Unfortunately, these draconian penalties hit low-income and communities of color the hardest. According to the ACLU, blacks in Iowa are almost eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana prohibition than whites.
In 2015, in addition to approving legislation to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution, the Iowa Senate approved legislation that would have reduced the penalties for possessing marijuana. The maximum sentence for possessing up to five grams of marijuana would have been reduced to 30 days in jail, which would have been a big improvement upon the status quo. Sadly, the House failed to debate this sensible bill. This is why it is so critical that Iowans email their lawmakers in support of reducing marijuana possession penalties. Or, ask your legislators to end marijuana prohibition now!
Thank you for supporting MPP. To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Iowa, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.