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Iowa Considers Lowering Penalties For First-Time Pot Possession

Iowa state lawmakers are considering a bill that would reduce penalties for possession of marijuana.

Even as many states have taken steps to decriminalize and even legalize recreational marijuana use, Iowa's marijuana laws remain among the toughest in the nation. However, as The Gazette reports, a bill currently being debated by state lawmakers could see Iowa reduce penalties for first-time possession of marijuana. Another bill would introduce important reforms to the state's medical marijuana laws. While neither bill would see Iowa actually legalize marijuana, they would be important steps towards keeping more people accused of marijuana offenses out of jail.

Lower possession penalties

The first marijuana-related bill is Senate File 2180, which would make first-time possession of five grams or less of marijuana a misdemeanor offense subject to up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $65 to $625. Currently, first-time possession of up to five grams of marijuana is considered a serious misdemeanor subject to a six-month jail sentence and a fine of up to $1,000. Furthermore, a serious misdemeanor on one's record can result in offenders being denied scholarships and college admission.

The bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, although it will still need to pass the House before being sent to the governor's desk for a final signature. Supporters of the bill say that it would lead to 2,000 fewer marijuana convictions in the first year of its implementation and would lead to $150,000 in savings for the state and even more for local governments.

Medical marijuana changes and public support

A second bill, Senate File 2313, also recently cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and addresses problems with Iowa's current medical marijuana system. While the state legalized the production and distribution of medical marijuana last year, it placed severe restrictions on which treatments and patients were eligible. Senate File 2313 would allow for more ailments and treatments using medical marijuana.

Support for these changes is growing in Iowa. As the Des Moines Register reports, a recent poll found that 78 percent of Iowans support medical marijuana. While a majority of Iowans remain opposed to legalizing recreational use of marijuana, that opposition has softened from 69 percent against legalization in 2014 to 58 percent in 2018. Currently, eight states have legalized recreational marijuana, while 22 have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, including Iowa's neighbors Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, and Missouri.

Criminal defense help

As Iowa's drug laws change, it is important for those who have been accused of a drug crime to remain aware that they still face potentially severe consequences if convicted. While it is easy to believe that with so many other states decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana use that police and prosecutors in Iowa will treat offenders lightly, the truth is that Iowa still has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. That's why anybody accused of a drug offense needs to talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can advocate for the accused's rights and help him or her maintain their rights and freedoms.

  • The Iowa State Bar Association
  • DUI Defense Law
  • NACDL
  • AAJ
  • Iowa Association of Justice

Keegan, Tindal, & Mason 

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  • J. Dean Keegan
  • Eric D. Tindal
  • Andrea D. Mason
  • J. Dean Keegan J. Dean Keegan

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    Decades of Award-Winning Legal Service J. Dean Keegan was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. After high school, Dean served ...
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  • Eric D. Tindal Eric D. Tindal

    Attorney

    Highly Rated Criminal Defense in Iowa City Eric D. Tindal, attorney at Keegan, Tindal & Mason, graduated from the University ...
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  • Andrea D. Mason Andrea D. Mason

    Attorney

    Experienced Criminal Defense in the Iowa and Illinois Quad Cities Andrea D. Mason practices in the areas of white collar ...
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Protecting Your Freedom & Rights
  • Possession with Intent to Deliver Marijuana and Methamphetamine Charges Dismissed

    Washington Count FECR5351. Attorney Tindal and Attorney Clemens Erdahl successfully argued that evidence of drug manufacture was obtained in violation of the Constitution. All charges were dismissed.

  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Charges Dismissed

    Iowa County FECR010358. Attorney Tindal was able to show the Court that his client was detained in violation of his Constitutional rights and that the K9 utilized in the search was unreliable. Following hearing all charges were dismissed.

  • Second Degree Sexual Abuse and Other Charges Acquittal at Trial

    Johnson County FECR089277. The Defendant was charged with Second Degree Sexual Abuse and other charges. Following a one-week trial by Mr. Tindal, the Defendant was acquitted of all charges.

  • Sexual Abuse in the 2nd Degree Conviction Reversed on Appeal

    Iowa Supreme Court No. 04-361. The Defendant was convicted of Sexual Abuse in the 2nd Degree. On appeal, Mr. Tindal successfully argued that the conviction was based on improperly admitted evidence. The conviction was reversed.

  • Trafficking Stolen Weapons and Misdemeanor Theft Charge Dismissed

    Scott County FECR384046. The Defendant was charged with Trafficking Stolen Weapons and Misdemeanor Theft. The Court dismissed the felony following a Motion litigated by Mr. Tindal. The Defendant subsequently pled to the remaining misdemeanor.

  • Vehicular Homicide Charges Reduced

    Johnson County FECR68296. The Defendant was charged with Vehicular Homicide. Following a suppression hearing, Mr. Tindal and his co-counsel were able to show that the blood test result was taken in violation of implied consent procedures. The case was subsequently resolved for a misdemeanor.

  • First Degree Murder and Child Endangerment Causing Death Acquitted of First Degree Murder at Trial

    Henry County FECR005634. Attorney Tindal’s client was charged with First Degree Murder and Child Endangerment Causing Death. Following a two week trial, the Defendant was acquitted of all charges.

  • Operating While Intoxicated Reduced to Public Intoxication

    Johnson County OWCR116811. The Defendant was charged with Operating While Intoxicated. Mr. Tindal was able to win the Iowa Dept of Transportation appeal and have the blood test result thrown out. The case was resolved for a public intoxication charge and no loss of license.

  • Operating While Intoxicated Second Offense Reduced to Public Intoxication

    Washington County OWIN010946. The Defendant was charged with Operating While Intoxicated Second Offense. Following long negotiations with the State the Defendant was able to plead to a Public Intoxication and have his driving privileges reinstated.

  • Operating While Intoxicated Record Expunged

    Johnson OWCR106890. Attorney Dean Keegan's client received an Operating While Intoxicated, a serious misdemeanor. After reviewing the videos, Mr. Keegan filed a Motion to Suppress arguing the officer denied his client's right to make a phone call. The State declined to present testimony at the hearing and the Motion to Suppress was granted, making the client eligible for a deferred judgment. Mr. Keegan's client will have her record expunged and be able to obtain a license after 90 days instead of 180.

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