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Bill could reduce penalties for first-time marijuana offenders in Iowa

A bill in the Iowa Senate that would loosen Iowa’s marijuana penalties has bipartisan support from lawmakers.

SF 533 would lower the legal penalty for first time offenders possessing less than five grams of marijuana in Iowa to a simple misdemeanor, translating to a maximum sentence of 30 days in prison and a fine between $105 – $855. Current state laws could result in up to six months of imprisonment and $1,000 in fines.

The bill has received bipartisan support and was originally introduced by Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale. It was unanimously passed in a Senate Committee on March 3, meaning the bill can be called for a full vote on the Senate floor.

Still, with 30 other states having fully legalized or decriminalized the substance as of March 2021, some policymakers in the state are worried that the legislation does not go far enough to address the social and economic grievances brought on by prohibition.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said that he believes the bill can go further by fully legalizing or decriminalizing the substance, which would also be beneficial for marginalized communities.

“This is a very very small step forward in addressing marijuana reform,” Bolkcom said. “Non-black and non-brown people are nearly eight times less likely as a black or a brown person to be arrested over marijuana [in Iowa].” [Read more at The Daily Iowan]

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