What is the difference between legalization and decriminalization of marijuana?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Around the nation, marijuana laws are changing. In some cases, a drug offense with marijuana no longer carries a strong charge, such as a jail term. Possession charges with small amounts may now be a small fine, but these laws vary from state to state.

There is a difference between the legalization of marijuana and decriminalization, and neither is an option in Iowa.

Understand the law

To decriminalize something means the state appealed or altered laws concerning criminal acts to protect offenders of the crime from prosecution. The act itself is still criminal, yet if caught and within a specific threshold outlined in the law, there is no criminal record or jail time since the state does not prosecute the individual. In the case of legalization, a formerly banned substance is now legal under state or federal law.

Iowa marijuana laws

In Iowa, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance. This classification regards the drug as having a high potential for abuse, and it does not recognize any medical value. Within the state, the possession, sale or manufacturing of the drug is illegal regardless of intended medical or recreational use.

There are slight exceptions concerning prescriptions containing low-THC cannabidiol extracts, though there are only a few chronic medical conditions where these exceptions occur. Individuals who wish to consume medical marijuana without consequences must qualify and register through Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Program.

Currently, marijuana possession receives a misdemeanor charge. Offenders can face jail time or a fine. Within the state, neither legalization nor decriminalization is an option for avoiding drug charges.