Bill to reduce marijuana penalties facing dubious future in Iowa Legislature

Could affect hundreds of people each year.

Posted: Feb. 4, 2018 4:11 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A proposal in the Iowa Legislature to lessen penalties for people who possess small amounts of marijuana could save the state money and reduce what groups say is racial injustice, yet its chances of advancing this session are unclear.

The bill would make first offense possession of marijuana that's 5 grams or less a simple misdemeanor instead of a serious misdemeanor, reducing jail time and court fees for those convicted of the charge.

Half of the roughly 3,400 cases of marijuana possession convictions in Iowa during the budget year that ended in 2016 involved 5 grams or less. In the same period, 18 percent of people convicted for first offense marijuana possession were African Americans.

The proposal has been debated a handful of times over the years and comes amid a shift in the national conversation over marijuana use.

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