Some Iowans caught for the first time with marijuana could face lighter penalties if a Senate bill under consideration this session becomes law.
Senate File 2180 would reduce the count for people caught with 5 grams or less for the first time from a serious misdemeanor to a simple one, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of between $65 and $625.
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who is floor manager of the bill, said he intends it as a “second chance” for people.
“Like it or not, more and more youths are making the stupid decision to use the illegal drug marijuana,” Zaun said. “What this bill does is not condoning that behavior, and it’s not a step in the direction of legalization from my perspective.”
Currently, the punishment is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Zaun said he’s heard positive responses to the bill from the judiciary subcommittee as well as from Iowans around the state. The penalty reduction is also part of an omnibus judicial reform bill this session, Zaun said.
“I feel confident that we could get something done,” Zaun said. “Of course then it’s got to go through the House process as well.”
Zaun expressed concern that students who have been caught possessing marijuana, in particular, pay for it when it comes time to apply for scholarships or admission — or jobs.
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“Sometimes that haunts them,” Zaun said, adding that the 5 grams or fewer requirement would exclude drug dealers. “They make a mistake. They hopefully learn from the mistake.”
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