It appears Iowa legislators may be poised to establish a state ban on the sale or possession of so-called “synthetic marijuana” sold under brand names like K2 and Spice.

Iowans caught with the products would be guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor under provisions inserted into a budget bill Senator Tom Hancock has been working on.

“We wanted this stuff off the shelves,” Hancock says. “We wanted to get rid of it.” 

So far this year the House and the Senate have voted to ban these products, but the sticking point has been the penalty.  The House had favored a felony, while the Senate’s voted to make it a misdemeanor to possess synthetic marijuana sold as incense or bath salts.

“To make it a class D felony for a first offense we felt was a little strong,” Hancock says. 

Senator Hancock says under the language inserted in a budget bill, a first offense would be an aggravated misdemeanor, but those caught more than once either buying, manufacturing or possessing synethetic marijuna would face tougher penalties.

The budget bill which contains this issue also lays out spending plans for a variety of public safety-related programs. It includes more money to pay the lawyers who represent indigent clients in Iowa’s courts.  A lack of money in the state’s indigent defense program caused consternation for weeks earlier this year, as the program ran out of money and lawyers were not paid.