Legality of Cannabis by U.S. Jurisdiction

Cannabis in Iowa is illegal for recreational use. Possession of even small amounts is a misdemeanor crime. Only CBD and 3% or less of THC is legal for serious medical conditions.[1]


Amidst an early 20th century trend of limiting the drug, Iowa prohibited cannabis in 1923.[2] Other sources state 1921.[3]

Decriminalization attempts[edit]

Failed 1970s decriminalization attempts[edit]

In the 1970s, Iowa introduced decriminalization legislation which failed.[4][5]

2014 failed decriminalization[edit]

In early 2014, House File 2313 was proposed, which would have reduced the penalty for possession of under 42.5 grams (1+12 oz) to a fine of $300, and possession of under a kilogram. The bill failed to progress before the expiry of a procedural deadline, so was rejected.[6]

2015 failed deprioritization in Cedar Falls[edit]

The city of Cedar Falls proposed to deprioritize municipal police enforcement of marijuana offenses for possession under one ounce (28 g). The resolution was voted down in January 2015 by a majority of the city council, with one member stating: "We are a governing body tasked with making laws, not ignoring laws."[7]

Medical marijuana[edit]

1979-1981 precedents[edit]

From late 1979 to mid-1981, Iowa's administrative rules allowed for medical use of marijuana through a therapeutic research center.[8]

2014 Legalization of CBD oil[edit]

Introduced by a committee, placed on Ways and Means calendar, Senate Bill 2360 on April 23, 2014 passed in the Senate by a vote of 36-12 on April 24, 2014. Bill 2360 was read for the first time in the House, referred to the Public Safety Committee, and passed by a subcommittee on April 25, 2014; Committee reports recommended amendments be made as well as passage; committee amendments were filed on April 29, 2014. Senate Bill 2360 allows the possession or use of cannabidiol that has less than 3% tetrahydrocannabinol for the treatment of intractable epilepsy, through the written recommendation of a neurologist. The bill states that the cannabidiol must be obtained from an out-of-state source and "recommended for oral or transdermal administration", (smoked).[9][10]

In May 2014, Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the Medical Cannabidiol Act, allowing possession of CBD oil with a neurologist's recommendation for the treatment of intractable epilepsy in children, to go into effect at the end of January 2015. Observers criticized the new law, noting that it contained no provision for legally obtaining CBD oil, as it remains illegal to produce in Iowa or to transport across state lines. A policy advisor for the Iowa Department of Public Health noted: "There are still some very fundamental barriers to parents getting the oil."[11][12]

2017 Expansion of Medical CBD[edit]

In May 2017, Branstad signed into law an expanded Medical Cannabidiol Act, which expanded the number for diseases for treatment. These diseases include cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more.[13][14]

2020 Further Expansion of Medical CBD[edit]

On June 29, 2020 Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds approved House File 2589. This Act was an update to the existing legislation regarding the medical cannabidiol act and marijuana. The amendments included, but are not limited to further additions to the list of conditions for patients to qualify for medical cannabis and also a change to the maximum amount of THC which may be given to patients in a 90 day period.[15]

Law enforcement CBD seizures[edit]

In 2018 law enforcement in Iowa began seizing products that say they contain CBD without testing.[16] Iowa's 124E Medical CBD law states that any Medical CBD must be treated as marijuana without licensing, but defines Medical CBD as "any pharmaceutical grade cannabinoid found in the plant Cannabis sativa L. or Cannabis indica or any other preparation thereof that has a tetrahydrocannabinol level of no more than three percent and that is delivered in a form recommended by the medical cannabidiol board, approved by the board of medicine, and adopted by the department pursuant to rule." The confusion comes from what would be considered pharmaceutical grade CBD and what would be considered a dietary supplement. Some of the products seized in Muscatine Iowa were sent to the state crime lab for test. The results were far from scientific and only appear to be an opinion of the lab examiner.[17] No analytical data of the concentrations of CBD, tetrahydrocannabinol, or other cannabinoids were provided.[18]


An early 2014 poll by Iowa Poll showed that Iowans favored legalizing medical marijuana 59%-31%, but opposed recreational marijuana 28%-69%.[19]

A poll in February of 2019 showed that Iowans were equal in support of and in opposition to legalization of recreational marijuana (48%-48%). The same poll showed that Iowans are in favor of expansion of medical marijuana access (78%-18%). [20]

A poll in March of 2020 showed another increase of support to recreational marijuana legalization (53%-41%) as well as expansion of medical marijuana access (81%-13%). [21]

Feral hemp[edit]

Feral hemp, descended from plants once farmed for industrial hemp, grows wild in Iowa and many neighboring states. It is very low in tetrahydrocannabinol content.[22]


  1. ^ "Iowa Laws and Penalties". NORML. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  2. ^ Sarah E. Boslaugh (December 8, 2015). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Pharmacology and Society. SAGE Publications. pp. 1758–. ISBN 978-1-5063-4618-2.
  3. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines (November 10, 2003). The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics. W.W. Norton. pp. 240–. ISBN 978-0-393-32545-4.
  4. ^ National Governors' Conference. Center for Policy Research and Analysis; Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co (1977). Research and case studies. National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. p. 203. Two adjacent states, South Dakota and Minnesota, passed marijuana decriminalization bills in 1976. Iowa also introduced such legislation, yet it was defeated. This section will document Iowa's experience.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co (1977). Marijuana: Findings and analysis. The Center. p. 49.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Bills die in Des Moines as procedural deadline passes | Daily Iowan Ethics & Politics Initiative". February 24, 2014. Archived from the original on February 25, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  7. ^ "Cedar Falls won't decriminalize marijuana". January 6, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Mike Wiser (March 28, 2014). "Lawmakers to introduce bills to decriminalize marijuana". TheGazette. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  9. ^ O'Keefe, Karen. "8 States with Pending Legislation to Legalize Medical Marijuana - Medical Marijuana -" ProConorg Headlines. N.p., n.d. Web. February 6, 2014.
  10. ^ "Marijuana Legalization: The State of the 50 States - WoahStork". WoahStork. June 12, 2016. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  11. ^ Policy, Marijuana (October 17, 2014). "Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Law Makes CBD Legal to Possess but Impossible to Obtain". Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  12. ^ Rodriguez, Barbara (July 16, 2015). "Iowa cannabis oil program: $115K spent on about 50 ID cards". Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  13. ^ Murphy, Erin (May 12, 2017). "Branstad signs medical cannabis bill into law". Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  14. ^ "HF524". Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  15. ^ "House File 2598 with letter from Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds". Iowa State Legislature. June 29, 2020. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  16. ^ Leys, Tony (January 11, 2018). "Iowa police seize CBD oil without always testing to confirm it's illegal marijuana". Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  17. ^ "Official Report of Iowa Department of Public Safety DCI Crime Laboratory" (PDF). January 9, 2018. 2017-28993 Report 1. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  18. ^ Sullivan, Adam (January 11, 2018). "Iowa's marijuana witch hunt flouts basic science". Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  19. ^ Tony Leys (March 3, 2014). "Iowa Poll: 59% back legalizing medical marijuana". Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  20. ^ Tony Leys (February 23, 2019). "Iowa Poll: 78% want medical marijuana program expanded, 48% would allow recreational pot". Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  21. ^ Nick Coltrain (March 15, 2020). "Iowa Poll: Most Iowans support expanding medicinal cannabis and legalizing recreational marijuana". Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  22. ^ United States. Congress. House. Select Committee on Crime (1970). Crime in America--views on Marijuana: Hearings ..., 91-1, Pursuant to H. Res. 17 ... Oct. 14, 15, 1969. p. 20.[1]