**Can You Smoke Weed in Public in Iowa? **
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Iowa due to cannabis' status as a controlled substance under Chapter 124 and Code 657 of the Iowa Administrative Code. However, medical cannabidiol is legal in the state. Iowa defines medical cannabidiol as any pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoid contained in the plant Cannabis sativa L. or Cannabis indica or any other preparation of the plant delivered in a form recommended by the state.
Medical cannabidiol is legal under the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act and is available in suppositories, nebulizable inhalable forms, vapes, oral forms, and topical forms. Medical cannabidiol products are commonly sold with varying CBD to THC ratios, such as 20:1, 1:20, 2:1, and 1:1. Under the Medical Cannabidiol Act, only persons with specific conditions approved under the Medical Cannabidiol Act may purchase medical cannabidiol products from licensed dispensaries. Also, patients may possess no more than 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day period.
Iowa has yet to legalize recreational cannabis but permits residents to use medical cannabidiol under specific conditions. The law in effect per medical cannabidiol regulations in the state is HB 2589.
The following is the cannabis legalization timeline in Iowa:
The first law to regulate cannabis in the United States was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The 1937 law imposed a tax on the sale and production of the substance, making it illegal to possess or use cannabis without paying the tax. Later in 1970, the Controlled Substance Act was passed, classifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug. This classification made it difficult to obtain cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.
Despite the ban on cannabis use and possession, some states legalized the substance for medical use in the 1990s. Today, many states have legalized cannabis for recreational use also. The change in the status of cannabis at the state level has put pressure on the federal government to change its policy.
In recent years, multiple moves have been made to legalize cannabis at the federal level. One of the recent bills, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act reintroduced in May 2021 by Jerrold Nadler, was the first cannabis legalization bill to make it to the Congress floor. The MORE Act, at its first introduction, was passed by the House in 2020 but failed to progress in the Senate.
The MORE Act aimed to remove marijuana and THC from the Controlled Substances Act and create programs funded by a proposed 5% tax on cannabis products. Revenue from the tax on cannabis would then be used to promote criminal justice and social and economic reform, especially in areas most adversely impacted by the "War on Drugs." The MORE Act also provided for the expungement of certain cannabis-related offenses. The MORE Act has been reintroduced, and the House voted to approve it in May 2022.
S.4591, also called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), was introduced in the United States Senate in July 2022 by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Cory Booker. Much like the MORE Act, CAOA attempts to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, expunge federal cannabis-related convictions, and add new funding for law enforcement to go after illegal marijuana operations.
Both the CAOA and MORE Acts are still being discussed. In addition to the MORE Act and the CAOA, several other proposals have been made to legalize cannabis on a federal level. These include the SAFE Banking Act, which would shield financial institutions from offering their services to cannabis businesses.
You can only use medical cannabidiol in Iowa if registered under the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Program established pursuant to the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act. It is illegal to consume adult-use in the state as it is prohibited there. Iowa patients who have been issued medical cannabidiol registry identification cards by the Office of Medical Cannabidiol can have up to 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days. Under specific conditions and authorizations, the Iowa MCP can allow patients to exceed the 4.5 grams of THC limit.
Although the state does not mention specific areas where medical cannabidiol may be used, it is recommended that you consume medical cannabidiol within your private residence. Patients are also advised to review their employment policies for THC, or cannabidiol use policies to be sure that the employer does not prohibit the use of cannabidiol products at work or outside of work. Patients consuming medical cannabidiol products may test positive for THC presence in the event of urinalysis or other tests for the presence of drugs.
Only medical cannabidiol forms stated in 641 IAC 154.14 of the Iowa Code may be purchased in the state. Such product forms are legal for possession by Iowa patients registered under the MCP, regardless of where the products were manufactured. A patient with a valid registration card, or its equivalent, issued pursuant to the laws of another state is allowed to possess products in the forms stated under 641 IAC 154.14. However, out-of-state cardholders are prohibited from purchasing products from dispensaries located in Iowa. There are no medical cannabidiol product quantity possession limits for registered cardholders and caregivers. Note that flower, such as loose leaf and joints, or THC-infused edibles, such as gummies and chocolates, are not permitted to be possessed by both in-state or out-of-state patients.
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Iowa and cannot be sold to the public. The state currently has two licensed medical cannabidiol manufacturers permitted to produce medical cannabidiol products for sale at the five operational dispensaries located in Sioux City, Windsor Heights, Waterloo, Council Bluffs, and Iowa City. Iowa’s medical cannabidiol program allows the manufacture and sale of CBD and THC products. The state has dispensary and manufacturer regulations to ensure the production and sales of medical cannabidiol products are conducted safely and seamlessly.
For example, manufacturers in the state must contract independent medical cannabidiol testing for their products to ensure the products' safety. A medical cannabidiol manufacturer may not have been convicted of a disqualifying felony offense and may not be located within the same physical location of a medical cannabidiol dispensary. Also, a dispensary may not be located within 1,000 feet of a school or permit the consumption of medical cannabidiol on the premises. In addition, a medical cannabidiol dispensary must verify that a buyer has a valid medical cannabidiol registration card and assign a tracking number to any product dispensed from the dispensary. Chapter 124E of the Iowa Code outlines other manufacturer and dispensary requirements.
Hence, when visiting an Iowa medical cannabidiol dispensary, you must have an unexpired Iowa medical cannabidiol card issued by the Office of Medical Cannabidiol. A state-issued ID will also be required at the dispensary. With cannabidiol sales tracked, you cannot purchase more than the stipulated 4.5 grams THC limit over a 90-day period, except if you have valid authorization under the Iowa medical cannabidiol program to buy more.
Iowa laws prescribe varying penalties for offenses related to marijuana depending on the quantity of marijuana involved in the offense and other factors. The following are offenses and the penalties stipulated under state law:
In the Iowa Controlled Substances Schedule, marijuana and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are classified separately as Schedule I substances. Under the criminal justice system, plant Marijuana and any derivatives of Tetrahydrocannabinol, including hashish and marijuana concentrates, are considered marijuana and are usually subject to the same punishments.
However, there is one exception regarding the treatment of plant-form marijuana. If an individual is charged with delivery or possession with the intent to deliver one-half ounce or less of marijuana plant without receiving any form of payment, the punishment differs. In this specific circumstance, plant-form Marijuana is penalized similarly to simple possession. On the other hand, delivery or possession with the intent to deliver an equivalent amount of hashish, hash oil, or other derivatives of Marijuana is punished according to the regular penalties for marijuana distribution.
This distinction means that the consequences for possessing or distributing plant-form Marijuana without remuneration differ from those for distributing or possessing equivalent amounts of concentrated forms of Marijuana like hashish or hash oil.
The possession, distribution, or manufacture of marijuana paraphernalia is a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines.
In Iowa, driving under the influence of marijuana is considered a criminal offense. The state's Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) statute encompasses not only violations involving alcohol but also cases where motorists are suspected of having any controlled substance, including marijuana, in their systems. However, there are some differences between an OWI involving alcohol and an OWI involving marijuana.
In an OWI-alcohol case, a person is alleged to have committed the offense if the individual had an unlawful blood alcohol concentration or was under the influence of alcohol. On the other hand, for an OWI-marijuana, no specific legal limit is established, and charges can be brought even if the substance did not visibly impair the driver.
The penalties for an OWI-marijuana are the same as those for an OWI-alcohol. Therefore, a conviction can result in confinement, fines, revocation of the driver's license, and mandatory participation in a substance abuse program. It is important to note that Iowa does not have a separate law explicitly addressing OWI-marijuana. Instead, if you are accused of driving under the influence of marijuana, you would be charged under Iowa Code 321J.2 - the same statute used to prosecute individuals suspected of OWI-alcohol. A violation may be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the number of past offenses on your criminal record.
Typical penalties for OWI-alcohol include:
Iowans who violate marijuana laws in the state may be subject to legal repercussions; however, some remedies may be pursued based on the specific circumstances of the offense. Such remedies include:
Confiscating assets related to marijuana offenses fall under Iowa's asset forfeiture laws. These laws permit law enforcement agencies in the state to seize assets and properties thought to be involved in or obtained from criminal activities, such as offenses related to controlled substances, including marijuana.
Individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses in Iowa may have the court order the forfeiture of their assets, such as vehicles, real estate, cash, and other valuable properties associated with the illegal activities. Iowa asset forfeiture laws are contained in Chapter 809A of the state code.
In recent years, Iowa has witnessed a significant change in its stance toward cannabis. While the state has adopted a progressive approach towards the use of medical CBD (cannabidiol), it still maintains a strict stance on recreational cannabis, having not removed it from its Schedule I substance category.
The journey toward the illegalization of recreational cannabis in Iowa is traceable to the early 20th century. In that period, the State of Iowa banned cannabis possession and cultivation. In 2014, the state failed to pass a cannabis decriminalization bill (House File 2313). HF 2313, if passed, would have reduced penalties for marijuana possession of up to 42.5 grams of cannabis to a fine of $300. In 2015, the City of Cedar Falls proposed a decriminalization law by deprioritizing its law enforcement actions on possessing under an ounce of cannabis. The move also failed as a majority of the Cedar Falls city council voted it down.
In 2023, Senate Bill SF73 was introduced at the Iowa House, proposing to legalize the regulated possession and sale of adult-use marijuana for adults aged 21 or older. The bill aims to make up to 30 grams of marijuana flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrates, and 500 milligrams of THC in any product infused with marijuana. Under Senate Bill SF73, non-Iowa residents aged 21 or older would only be able to purchase half of the amounts that legal residents can.
Per medical cannabis, Iowa took its first step towards embracing the therapeutic benefits of cannabis by legalizing the use of medical cannabidiol in 2014. The state passed Senate File 2360, also called the Medical Cannabidiol Act, which was signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad. The law permitted Iowans with severe epilepsy to access CBD oils with low THC contents (up to 3%) to treat their conditions.
Governor Terry Branstad also signed HF 524 in 2017, adding more qualifying conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, and Crohn's disease, that are approved to be treated with medical cannabidiol in the state. The 2017 law added qualifying conditions and directed the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) to license dispensaries to sell medical cannabidiol products to Iowans. In 2020, more conditions were added to the qualifying conditions list when Governor Kim Reynolds signed HF 2589 into law. Besides adding more conditions, HF 2589 expanded the list of medical professionals permitted to recommend medical cannabidiol to patients. HF 2589 also increased the possession limit from 3% or less THC to 4.5 grams of THC over a 90-day period.
The following restrictions exist on cannabis in Iowa: