A new bill that would reduce jail time and fines for the possession of small amounts of marijuana is receiving mixed reviews from Woodbury counties top law enforcement officers.
The Woodbury County jail remains at full capacity, housing more than 200 prisoners in a detention facility built for only 90 but relief could be on the way. Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill that would reduce criminal penalties for anyone caught with 5 grams of marijuana or less.
Sheriff Dave Drew explains how this could affect the Woodbury County jail.
“Making marijuana a simple misdemeanor and citeable offense would probably help somewhat of the numbers of people who get arrested on a daily rate. They can be cited and released, so in that sense, it may help,” said Sheriff Drew.
Right now, possession of marijuana is a serious offense and can carry fines up to $1,000 and a maximum of six months in jail.
Breana Bowman, a Siouxland resident, described how she felt about the new bill.
“I feel like it’s something that needs to happen at this point because so many people are getting in trouble for it and going to jail for it. They’re just going to jail for a really long time and it’s kind of pointless,” said Bowman.
The change most likely would help lower Woodbury county inmate numbers but Sheriff Drew said he’s worried the change could send a mixed message.
“There’s a trend to think that legalization might be the answer, but there are a number of problems that come from legalization, and they’ll say we can tax it. Well, dispensaries only run for so many hours, the black market runs 24 hours,” said Sheriff Drew.
A recent Des Moines Register poll shows 48 percent of Iowans now believe marijuana should be legalized, a higher number than ever before.
“I think there’s too much of negative stigma around it and I don’t think every person that smokes marijuana is a bad person for doing it,” said Drew.
The next vote is scheduled for the Senate floor. KCAU 9 will keep track of the bill as it continues to move through Iowa legislation.