Preventing substance abuse in Iowa

Brenna Bird, Iowa’s newly elected Attorney General, has introduced a bill that would harshen penalties for distributing controlled, counterfeit, and/or imitation controlled drugs that result in someone’s death and classify it a class B felony.


E. Saldana-Hernandez

The bill introduced on Jan. 17 would make the sale of any drug resulting in someone’s death carry up to a 25-year sentence. This puts it on same level as an attempted murder and killing somebody while driving intoxicated. Currently, the maximum charge that can be pursued against someone who sells a drug following in death is for the distribution itself, which is only a Class C felony. Prosecutors could also charge dealers with involuntary manslaughter, a Class D felony, which has a maximum sentence of five years. The only drug exempt from this bill is Marijuana. Another exemption this bill creates is for Iowa’s ‘Good Samaritan’ law, in which legal protections for a person who calls emergency services when they or someone else is experiencing an overdose, is provided. The ‘Good Samaritan’ law encourages those who witness a drug overdose to stay and call 911. Generally, overdose witnesses under the law won’t be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for possession/delivery of a controlled drug and if they act in good faith. The bill was passed through subcommittee on January 25 with a vote total of 2-0. Taking a step towards preventing youth substance abuse and violence, Bird drafted the bill with an eye toward saving lives. At the same time addressing what is “an imbalance in how the law treats such cases,” Bird said in a press release. Referring to the currently low charge. She drafted the bill with an eye toward saving lives.

“This bill was drafted to prevent overdose deaths and hold drug dealers accountable. Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for young adults ages 18 to 45. There’s no safe amount of an illegal drug,” Press Secretary Alyssa Brouillet said.

In Iowa, there’s been an alarming increase in overdose deaths. Bird aims to address the rising rate of overdoses here in Iowa.
“We must stop overdose deaths and hold drug dealers accountable,” Brenna Bird said in a press release.
Overdose deaths have increased at an annual rate of 3.93 percent over the last three years. In 2020, the count of deaths caused by drug overdoses was 419. Opioid-related deaths had increased by 35 percent during the pandemic. In 2021, the count had jumped even more with 463 overdose deaths. And in 2022, the number rose again, with a total of 470 deaths.
“This bill will toughen sentences, equip prosecutors for the war against dangerous drugs, and reduce drug-related deaths,” Bird said in a news release on Jan. 26.