Iowa Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Iowa?
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Iowa Law: 

StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD
IowaNo*Restricted ProductsNo

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Iowa?

No. Recreational cannabis use is illegal in Iowa, and while it is not decriminalized their laws are more relaxed than most non-legal states. 

Iowa cannabis lobbyists continue to promote decriminalization, but fail to move forward past introduction. Polls show Iowans want to elaborate on medical marijuana laws for patients but have less interest in legalizing recreational use. 

Despite this, Democratic state lawmakers are desperate to catch up to neighboring state’s cannabis policies. State senator Joe Bolkom thinks, “It’s time to recognize that marijuana prohibition has really been a failure, not only in Iowa but across the country. It’s just wrecked too many people’s lives in the form of a criminal record that really sets their lives and their family’s lives in a downward cycle of poverty.” The bills introduced by Bolcom would tax and regulate cannabis similar to alcohol and are modeled after Illinois’ marijuana legalization and expunge past criminal convictions. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Iowa?

Yes but with restricted products. The first medical marijuana legalization bill passed in 2014 with Senate Bill 2360, which allows for the possession of CBD with less than 3% THC, for patients with intractable epilepsy. 

In 2017, a medical marijuana CBD bill expanded for patients with several different diseases including cancer, MS, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease. Yet, many still criticize the law as there are few ways to purchase treatment. As of 2020, because of the effects of COVID-19, there is only one medical CBD manufacturer left in the state, further limiting patient’s access to treatment. 

Are CBD products legal in Iowa? 

No. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States; as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. Yet, states can decide whether or not to accept this federal legality, Iowa is one of the few states that still deems all CBD products illegal. 

Ironically enough even though CBD is illegal in the state, there’s a lot of feral hemp that grows wild in Iowa yielding a very low percentage of THC. These plants were descended from once farmed *industrial hemp in Iowa and neighboring states. 

Iowa’s Cannabis Timeline:

1923: Cannabis Prohibition starts in Iowa

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth”.) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1970-1979: The Iowa State government kept introducing decriminalization bills, that never made it to the House or Senate floors. 

1979-1981: Iowa allowed research of medical marijuana’s therapeutic remedies. 

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins”.

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: Iowa State government fails to pass a cannabis decriminalization bill. House File 2313, if passed would have reduced possession penalties to a fine. 

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2014: Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act, Senate Bill 2360, allows for possession or use of cannabidiol  (CBD) that has less than 3% THC for the treatment of patients with intractable epilepsy, to be taken orally or transdermally. The bill was widely criticized since it is illegal to produce CBD in Iowa and is also forbidden to be transported across state lines. Therefore, it made patient’s accessibility to CBD oil nearly impossible. 

2015: Cedar Hills Iowa fails the deprioritization bill. The city of Cedar Falls proposed to deprioritize their police enforcement of cannabis offenses for possession under an ounce. These failed bills represent the long-standing staunch position of conservative local governing bodies in Iowa. 

2017: Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act expanded, for patients with several diseases besides epilepsy including cancer, chronic pain, MS, HIV/AIDS, and more. 

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.

2020: Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act further expanded, House File 2589, the amendments of the act added conditions for patients to qualify for medical CBD oil and changed the maximum amount of THC which may be given to patients within their refill rate.

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