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Can you bring legally purchased marijuana into Iowa?

The laws governing marijuana and THC products are changing rapidly across the United States. While pot is still illegal under federal law, a significant number of states have legalized marijuana/THC products for medical use, recreational use or both. In this part of the Midwest, Iowa has almost become an outlier for not taking any significant action toward legalization of marijuana.

While personal-use possession remains a misdemeanor here in Iowa, two neighboring states (South Dakota and Illinois) recently moved to completely legalize use of the drug. You may be wondering: is it legal to drive to one of these states, purchase marijuana then bring it back to Iowa? Unfortunately for you, the answer is no.

Theoretical consequences of crossing state lines with pot

The U.S. has a patchwork of state marijuana laws, and the drug remains criminalized under federal law. This creates confusion about how (or whether) individuals can be prosecuted for specific actions related to the drug.

If you were to purchase marijuana in a state where it was legal and were caught in the act of bringing it back to Iowa, it is theoretically possible that you could face federal criminal charges for transporting illegal drugs across state lines. Oddly, this is true even if you were to transfer pot from one legal state to a neighboring legal state.

If you were carrying personal-use quantities, the chances of federal charges would usually be slim. But it is important to understand that the possibility exists.

Likely consequences of transferring pot back into Iowa

If you took a road trip, purchased marijuana in a legal state and brought it back to Iowa, the likeliest criminal scenario would be charging you with possession, with specific penalties based on the quantity seized. In Iowa, simple possession remains a misdemeanor even for repeat offenses, but the sentencing guidelines increase for subsequent offenses.

It is possible that prosecutors might include bringing the marijuana in from another state as an aggravating factor in your case, but it would require them to prove that you obtained it from another state and played a direct role in bringing it across state lines. Therefore, they may choose to leave that detail out in many cases (depending on circumstances, of course).

Drug charges need to be taken seriously

Public opinion toward marijuana tends to range from neutral to positive for most people. But public opinion isn’t what matters when you are facing criminal charges. A drug conviction, even a misdemeanor conviction, can have long-term impacts on your ability to find a job, get into college or get approval for desirable housing.

If you’ve been charged with marijuana possession or any other drug offense, please don’t leave your future up to chance. Seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.