Fifteen states have legalized recreational marijuana and 27 states have decriminalized small amounts of the drug, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee has approved Senate File 533, which would reduce the criminal charges from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor for first-offense possession of 5 grams or less of marijuana. A simple misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $625. A serious misdemeanor conviction carries up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,875.
In arguing in favor of what he called the “very, very modest change” the bill would allow, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said in a March 3 Judiciary Committee meeting marijuana convictions — even low-level ones — can hurt Iowans’ prospects for jobs, housing and financial aid. He made several claims:
• “In 2020, more than 4,500 people had marijuana convictions in Iowa.”
• “ ... Fifty-three percent of Iowans across political parties support marijuana reform ...”
• “If you’re a Black or brown person in Iowa, you’re nearly eight times more likely to be arrested for it (marijuana possession).”
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