A lone silo sitting among Iowa's stretching farmland.


Simple Cannabis Possession Reform Bill Gains Traction in Iowa

A measure introduced in Iowa’s Senate would reduce the penalties for possession of fewer than 5 grams of cannabis from six months in jail and a $1,000 fine to a maximum of 30 days in jail and a fine between $65 and $625. According to Democratic Rep. Mary Wolfe, in 2016 there were 3,400 cannabis possession convictions in Iowa and half of them were for 5 grams or less.

“You know you arrest them, you put them in jail overnight, they get out – I mean, what is the point? So, I do think that if we did reduce it down to where we’re looking at a fine, it would save local governments a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of resources that could be better aimed at dealing with more serious criminal offenses.” – Wolfe to Public Service News

The measure is opposed by the Iowa State Police and Peace Officers associations. The Governor’s Office of Drug Policy Control has neither supported nor opposed the proposal.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, 75 percent of first offenses for simple possession of 5 grams or less utilize public defender services. The note suggests the measure “would have a positive minority impact to the African-American community,” noting that in fiscal year 2016 “18 percent of the persons convicted of first offense marijuana possession were African-American” while just 3.5 percent of the state’s population is African-American.

Last month the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended the bill for passage.

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