Iowa County Starts Program to Prevent Criminal Records for Cannabis Users

The Linn County, Iowa Attorney’s Office last week announced a Marijuana Diversion Program aimed to keep clean the criminal records of first-time offenders caught with “a user quantity amount” of cannabis. The program requires county prosecutors to “weigh multiple factors when considering whether to recommend a defendant to participate in the program.”

According to a press release, the goal of the program is to mitigate the negative consequences of a minor cannabis charge, including the ability of offenders to obtain housing and employment, access higher education, and on the short and long-term financial security of defendants charged with cannabis possession. The program aims to reduce recidivism of first-time offenders and rehabilitate defendants “by treating and addressing underlying issues surrounding substance abuse.”

A December 28 legal memo outlining the program explains that the program will only be available for pending charges or arrests prior to January 1, 2021, and only for defendants who were not already convicted or granted deferred judgment on the charge. Additionally, applicants must not have been “charged with either another indictable offense in the same or in a separate prosecution or currently charged with any crime of violence.”

Program enrollees would be required to be evaluated for substance abuse from a “credible substance abuse treatment provider,” complete 10 hours of community service, appear at all court dates, not be arrested or convicted for any other charges while in the program (save for traffic citations), and waive “the right to file a pretrial Motion to Suppress Evidence to challenge the constitutionality of the admissibility of evidence in the case.”

The effectiveness of the program will be reviewed at the end of 2021 and the Attorney’s Office could modify and/or expand the program based on that review.

Linn County includes Cedar Rapids, the state’s second-largest city behind Des Moines.

Originally Published on 2020 12 29 by TG Branfalt |

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