In the state of Iowa, the law on possession of marijuana is slowly changing. In February of 2015, the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee passed Study Bill 1121. Senate Study Bill 1121 stated that people in Iowa who are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana can face reduced penalties. In the bill, small amounts of marijuana are 5 grams or less. The bill was revolutionary in the sense that it made possession of this small amount a simple misdemeanor for those who are first-time offenders. Those found guilty of marijuana possession would be charged with a fine of up to $625 and up to 30 days in jail instead of a fine of up to $1,850 and up to six months in jail.

What made Study Bill 1121 so revolutionary was the fact that it represented a smarter approach to criminal justice as well as law enforcement. Prior to Study Bill 1121, a person charged with first-time marijuana possession would immediately be hauled to jail. Once the bill passed, officers would simply issue a citation at the time of discovery, which would require the person’s appearance in court at a future date.

The Senate committee cleared the bill with a bipartisan voice vote and the only objection came from Senator Kevin Kinney, who at the time, had just retired from being a lieutenant at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. Kinney had been in charge of the investigative division.

In an effort to explain his objection, Kinney stated that during his time with Johnson County, he had arrested people for possession of marijuana as well as other drugs. He noted that his main concern was to preserve the ability to obtain fingerprints of those charged in such marijuana possession cases. He stated that Iowa law requires augmented penalties for those facing a second or third marijuana possession offense.

Study Bill 1121 was supported by the Iowa Association of Justice, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, and, the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

Ultimately the study billed did not get passed by the legislature but it does show that there is support in Des Moines for treating people possessing marijuana more fairly than how we currently treat them.