Iowa marijuana laws

Published on September 3, 2020 · Last updated August 12, 2022

Is marijuana legal in Iowa?

Current legality status


Cannabis is legal for qualified patients with a licensed card.

Technically, medical marijuana is legal in Iowa but legalization is mixed—preparations such as capsules, tinctures, and lotions are legal, but smokable medical marijuana is not legal. Recreational marijuana remains illegal as well.

Patients may purchase up to 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days, with some exceptions made for those who require more to effectively treat their condition. 

Penalties for possession are stiff:

  • First-time offenders may be convicted of a misdemeanor, sentenced to up to six months in jail, and fined up to $1,000
  • By the third offense, potential jail time rises to two years and fines of up to $6,250 may be assessed
  • Repeat offenders may be referred to drug treatment programs 
  • Even possession or sale of paraphernalia may result in a misdemeanor conviction, six months in jail, and a $1,000 fine

Cultivation and distribution may result in a felony conviction. Sentencing is determined by the weight of the marijuana, with penalties starting at five years in jail and a $7,500 fine for amounts under 50 kilograms (110 lbs) and topping out at 50 years in prison and a $1 million fine for amounts over 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lbs).

Iowa medical marijuana laws

Medical marijuana legalization has been incremental in Iowa. It began in 2014 with the passage of the Medical Cannabidiol Act (SB 2360), which allowed doctors to prescribe CBD oil and preparations containing CBD with less than 3% THC to patients with intractable epilepsy starting in 2015. 

However, it remained difficult to purchase due to conflicting legislation on production and transport. Amendments passed in 2017 added a number of eligible conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and untreatable pain. They also allowed for licensed cultivation of medical marijuana in the state, paving the way for dispensaries to open in December 2018. 

Amendments passed in 2020 added additional conditions and changed possession restrictions to 4.5 grams of THC every 90 days, with exceptions for the terminally ill or those with conditions that require additional amounts.

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Iowa qualifying conditions for medical marijuana

Qualifying conditions are physician-diagnosed ailments that can be treated by medical cannabis. 

Required qualifying conditions to become a medical marijuana patient in Iowa include:

  • Cancer, if the underlying condition or treatment produces one or more of the following:
    • Severe or chronic pain
    • Nausea or severe vomiting
    • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Multiple sclerosis with severe and persistent muscle spasms
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Any terminal illness, with a probable life expectancy of under one year, if the illness or its treatment produces one or more of the following:
    • Severe or chronic pain
    • Nausea or severe vomiting
    • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Untreatable pain
  • Severe intractable autism with self-injurious or aggressive behaviors
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

For a complete list of guidelines, please refer to Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act (and its amendments, here and here) or catch up on the latest Iowa cannabis news.

How to get a medical marijuana card in Iowa

Patients may apply for an Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Card online. The steps are outlined here—patients must submit:

  • Healthcare practitioner certification form
  • Copy of driver’s license
  • $100 fee—a reduced fee of $25 is offered to Social Security Disability beneficiaries, Supplemental Security Income Payment beneficiaries, Medicaid members, and Hawki cardholders

Cards are valid for one year.

The medical marijuana program in Iowa is run by the Department of Public Health and the Office of Medical Cannabidiol.

Does Iowa accept out-of-state medical cards? 

Iowa does not accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards at dispensaries. However, there is a reciprocity provision in the 2017 legislation that allows cardholders from other states to possess cannabis products that fall within the Iowa guidelines. 

When does my Iowa medical marijuana card expire?  

To maintain an active Medical Cannabidiol card, a patient and/or caregiver must submit a renewal application every year, including a recertification from their physician. Patients will be notified of cards expiring 60 days prior to expiration. Cards expire one year after the date of approval.

Iowa marijuana growing laws

Iowa does not permit home cultivation of marijuana.

Iowa public consumption laws

Promoting a gathering where marijuana will be sold or used may result in a misdemeanor conviction, up to a year in jail, and a fine of up to $1,875. Sale to a minor near a park or school is a felony and conviction results in a mandatory sentence of 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

Consumption of a controlled substance in public is referred to as “simulated intoxication” and is a simple misdemeanor. Additional penalties will be assessed for possession.

Medical marijuana may not be smoked in Iowa either in public or in private.

Iowa cannabis DUI laws

Even in medical-use and adult-use states, it is illegal to drive while under the influence. Although Iowa is a medically legal state, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of cannabis.

Drivers in Iowa have implied consent to withdrawal of blood, breath, or urine for a chemical test. A driver may assert their right to speak to an attorney before submitting to the test. A refusal to submit to this test means their license shall be revoked for a minimum period of 90 days.


  • First offense: Minimum 48 hours and up to one year in jail, $1,250 fine, or both; judge may waive up to $625 of fine in lieu of community service; 180 days suspended license; must complete a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program
  • Second offense (within 12 years): Minimum seven days and up to two years in jail; $1,875-$6,250 fine; one-year suspended license; IID required for one year from license restoration; must complete a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program
  • Third and subsequent offenses: Class D felony, minimum of 30 days and up to five years in jail; $3,125-$9,375 fine; one-year suspended license; IID required for one year from license restoration, must complete a substance abuse and treatment program

For information, please refer to Iowa’s OWI Law and Iowa Department of Transportation Suspensions/Revocations.

Iowa cannabis testing regulations

According to the 2020 legislation: “A medical cannabidiol manufacturer shall contract with a laboratory to perform spot-check testing of the medical cannabidiol produced by the medical cannabidiol manufacturer as provided in section 124E.7. The department shall require that the laboratory report testing results to the medical cannabidiol manufacturer and the department as determined by the department by rule. If a medical cannabidiol manufacturer contracts with a laboratory other than the state hygienic laboratory at the university of Iowa in Iowa City, the department shall approve the laboratory to perform testing pursuant to this chapter.”

It also notes that “A medical cannabidiol dispensary shall employ a pharmacist or pharmacy technician licensed or registered pursuant to chapter 155A for the purpose of making dosing recommendations.”

Testing must include assessments of “pesticides, residual solvents, microbiological impurities, and heavy metals.”

Delta-8 laws in Iowa

Delta-8 is not legal in Iowa. Delta-8 exists in a legal gray area because it is often extracted from hemp, which was made legal in the US with the 2018 farm bill, however, some individual states have specifically outlawed delta-8 regardless of this law, including Iowa.

The state updated its hemp laws in 2020 and kept a ban on tetrahydrocannabinols derived from hemp in concentrations exceeding 0.3% THC, which includes delta-8.

Common questions about marijuana legalization in Iowa

Is recreational marijuana legal in Iowa? 

No. Only medical marijuana is legal in Iowa in the form of capsules, tinctures, and lotions. Smokable medical marijuana is not legal. 

Can you get a medical marijuana card for anxiety in Iowa? 

Iowa’s list of qualifying conditions does not include anxiety. You can only receive medical marijuana for anxiety if you have a physician’s recommendation that states your anxiety is a debilitating medical condition. 

Can you get a medical card with a felony in Iowa? 

People convicted of drug-related felonies are prohibited from obtaining medical cards and from working for CBD manufacturers.

Can you grow your own cannabis in Iowa? 

Cultivating cannabis at home in Iowa is not sanctioned by law and can result in incarceration or a fine depending on the number of plants. 

Are vape pens legal in Iowa?

Medical marijuana inhalation devices are legal in Iowa under the current legislation, though they are not specifically mentioned. State-licensed dispensaries offer a small selection of vape cartridges

Is Delta-8 legal in Iowa?

No. Delta-8 is not legal in Iowa.

Keep up with the latest news about legalization in Iowa

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