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Senate Study Bill 1226 & Possible Easing of First-Time Marijuana Possession Penalties

What Is SSB 1226?

In February 2021, Senate Study Bill 1226 was introduced with the goal of reducing the crime of first-offense marijuana possession of five grams or less from a serious misdemeanor for a first offense to a simple misdemeanor. Under current laws, the penalties for a first-offense marijuana possession charge include up to $1000 in fines and up to six months in jail. The penalties for a simple misdemeanor are no more than 30 days in jail and up to $855 in fines. The bill does not modify penalties for second, third, or subsequent possession of marijuana charges.

In March 2021, the bill was approved by the committee. It has also been renamed Senate File (SF) 533. On April 1, 2021, the bill was referred to Judiciary.

Why Is SSB 1226 Significant?

Though many believe that SSB 1226 does not go far enough, it would represent a step forward in the push to decriminalize marijuana possession. The reduction of a first-time offense from a serious misdemeanor to a simple misdemeanor is significant in that not only are the immediate penalties of a conviction greatly reduced, but the long-term consequences of a conviction are not as severe.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, it is projected that if the bill is enacted, approximately 50% fewer people would be admitted to probation or parole for violations of Iowa Code section 124.405(5). Not only does this have a significant impact on the lives of those convicted, but it also has the potential to save the state upwards of $1 million.

Furthermore, this bill also has the potential to address racial disparities when it comes to marijuana arrests and convictions. According to the ACLU, in Iowa, a Black person is 7.3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. This disparity is despite findings that both groups use marijuana at roughly the same rate. As mentioned in the bill’s fiscal note, in 2020, of the 680 people admitted to parole or probation for first-time marijuana offenses, 18% were Black, despite only representing 4.1% of Iowa’s total population.

What to Do If You Are Arrested for Marijuana Possession

Unlike some of our neighboring states, namely South Dakota and Illinois, the recreational use of marijuana is not currently legal in the state of Iowa. Additionally, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government. Schedule I drugs are those that the federal government state have no accepted medical use, and which have a high potential for abuse.

If you are arrested for a marijuana crime, you may face serious penalties that include fines and jail time. Additionally, having a conviction on your record can follow you for years. Having a criminal record can make finding a job and housing difficult, and it may disqualify you from attending certain schools or belonging to certain professional organizations.

No matter what, if you are arrested for a marijuana crime (including marijuana-related DUIs), you need to contact an attorney right away. The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the sooner they can start working on your case and can help you fight the allegations against you. At Hope Law Firm, we know how scary it is to be arrested, and we are prepared to help.

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