Understanding Drug Crime Charges

The recreational marijuana movement has not yet reached Iowa. In March 2021, a study by the Des Moines Register found that more than half (54 percent) of Iowans support the legalization of cannabis for recreational usage, while 78 percent favor expanding medical marijuana to cover more diseases and conditions. A poll in 2020 found a similar majority favoring recreational legalization.

Meanwhile, marijuana remains on the state’s Schedule 1 of Controlled Substances, tracking the federal classification, which means it has “a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use,” according to statutory definitions, even though medical marijuana is available in Iowa.

In other words, even the casual user of marijuana can run afoul of the law by merely possessing the substance unless the user holds a medical marijuana authorization. 

Manufacturing or distributing cannabis products can raise the charge from a simple possession misdemeanor to a felony. The same goes for other controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, PCP, LSD, methamphetamine, and amphetamine -- manufacturing and distributing are serious felonies.

If you are under investigation or have been charged with any drug-related crimes in Nevada, Iowa, or anywhere in the counties of Story, Marshall, Boone, Hamilton, or Hardin, contact me at the Olberding Law Office.

I have more than 30 years of experience representing clients on drug violation charges. I can help strive for the best possible outcome using all the knowledge and resources I have accumulated.

A Look at Iowa Drug Laws: Possession

Possession of any controlled substance is illegal in Iowa. Possession of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine between $105.00 and $1,000.00. For a second offense, the punishment rises to a maximum of one year in jail and a fine between $430.00 and $2,560.00. For a third offense, you can face incarceration of up to two years and a fine between $855.00 and $8,540.00.  For these penalties to apply, all the previous convictions and only be for marijuana All charges are misdemeanors.

Possession of a controlled substance other than marijuana is considered a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine between $430.00 and $2,560.00.  A second offense is an aggravated misdemeanor with up to one year in jail and a fine between $855.00 and $8,540.00. A third offense is a felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of between $1,025.00 and $10,245.00.  Even if you are arrested for marijuana, if you have a previous conviction for any drug other than marijuana, the more serious penalties apply.

Manufacture and Distribution of Controlled Substances

Penalties for manufacturing and delivering controlled substances hinge on the type of drug, the amount, and where it falls on the Schedule of Controlled Substances. Schedules I, II, and III substances are all felonies, except for less than one-half ounce of marijuana, which has its category called “Special Class Serious.”

Schedule I, II, and III Controlled Substances include LSD, cocaine base (crack), cocaine, heroin, PCP (both pure and mixed), marijuana, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and fentanyl, among others.

Except for lower amounts of marijuana, penalties for these substances start at up to 10 years in prison, along with a fine between $10,000 and $50,000. At the upper end – again, depending on the amount – the penalties are a maximum of 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

Distributing to a minor carries a mandatory sentence of five years’ incarceration up to 25 years maximum and a $100,000 fine. If the sale to the minor takes place within 1,000 feet of a park, elementary or middle school, or a school bus, the mandatory minimum is ten years and a $100,000 maximum fine.

Denial of Federal Benefits

The court, at its discretion, will order those convicted of drug possession or trafficking to be denied federal benefits, such as school loans, grants, contracts, and professional and commercial licenses. For a first offense, the denial can be for up to five years; for a second offense, 10 years; for a third, permanent denial.

For first and second offenses, the individual can choose to complete an approved drug treatment program with periodic future testing in place of the ban. No alternative is available for a third offense.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help

Even with a misdemeanor possession charge, you are going to end up with a criminal record that can haunt you for the rest of your life. If you are facing a drug charge, it’s crucial to fight for your rights and seek the best possible outcome.

Contact me immediately at the Olberding Law Office if you’re being investigated or charged with a drug violation. My three decades-plus of experience representing others in the same situation as yours can only enhance your odds of getting a more favorable result.

I’m proud to serve clients throughout Nevada, Story County, Marshall County, Boone County, Hamilton County, and Hardin County, Iowa.


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