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Updated 4 hours 51 minutes ago A proposal in the Iowa Legislature to lessen penalties for people who possess small amounts of marijuana for the first time would save the state money and reduce the disproportionate number of African-Americans in its criminal justice system, yet its chances of advancing this session are unclear. The bill would make first offense possession of marijuana that’s 5 grams or less a simple misdemeanor instead of a serious misdemeanor, reducing jail time and court fees for those convicted of the charge. “This would be a step in the right direction in addressing one of the very big racial disparity problems in Iowa,” said Daniel Zeno with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa. A 2013 report from the national ACLU shows a black person in Iowa is eight times more likely to be charged with marijuana possession than a white person. That’s even though white people uses marijuana at about the same rate as black people. The report, based on federal data, ranks Iowa the worst among all states. Bill that reduces marijuana penalties faces uncertain future

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