GOP Quickly Shoots Down Senate Dems Legal Marijuana Proposal

GOP Quickly Shoots Down Senate Dems Legal Marijuana Proposal

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By Nikoel Hytrek

December 24, 2021

Support for legalized marijuana is only getting higher in Iowa as Democratic legislators want to give voters the chance to make it happen.

Iowa Senate Democrats announced Tuesday they will move to pass an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to regulate marijuana sales the way Iowa regulates alcohol. That would let Iowans directly voice their opinion on the matter at the ballot box.

“Iowans are ready to join the growing list of states that are regulating marijuana for adult use,” said state Sen. Janet Petersen in a press release.

Iowa Democrats have considered a new push for legalizing marijuana for months now.

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Iowa Republicans are strongly opposed to the idea, but one, in particular, has pledged to stop any efforts at legalization.

State Sen. Brad Zaun, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday he wouldn’t allow this bill through his committee. He’s said the same thing in the past.

“I am not interested in making recreational marijuana legal in the state of Iowa. Mostly because of the negative impact it would have on our youth,” he told KCCI in February.

But they’re in the minority on this.

Polling done by the Des Moines Register shows 54% of adults favor legalizing recreational marijuana and 78% support expanding the medical marijuana program.

“Public opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Iowans approve of regulating marijuana for adult use,” said state Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott in a press release. “Unfortunately, the Republican-dominated legislature has failed to act, let alone even hold a public hearing so that we can talk about the issue.”

Across the country, 18 states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana. Its use has been decriminalized in 13 other states.

In Iowa, medical cannabidiol (CBD) use is legal, but it’s complicated. While patients can get CBD, distributors can’t sell products with more than four and a half grams of THC in a 90-day period.

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This proposal would make marijuana legal for anyone age 21 and older.

The senators said this move would create 4,000-7,000 jobs and generate $70-$100 million in revenue for state and local governments.

Legalization ensures Iowans are getting marijuana from licensed, regulated businesses, and creates oversight.

Besides, Iowa’s laws aren’t enforced evenly. The ACLU has found that even though Black and white people use marijuana at about the same rates, Black people are 7.3 times more likely to be arrested. Iowa is the fifth-worst state in the country for arrest disparities when it comes to marijuana.

The penalty for possession in Iowa is a misdemeanor, but growing or distributing is a felony across the board. Distribution also includes possession with intent to distribute.

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In Iowa, amendments have to be passed twice through the legislature before they’re put on an election ballot for voters to decide.

As with everything, amount matters when it comes to marijuana. There have been no reported deaths related solely to cannabis use and while a person can overdo it or have a bad reaction, overdosing in the traditional sense doesn’t happen.

Some people have a better tolerance than others and reactions can differ as well, but generally marijuana is considered safe as long as people are aware of how much they’re taking and what to expect. Experts do agree more research is needed, though.

Democratic lawmakers want Iowans to have the choice, and to mitigate the definite downsides to marijuana being illegal in Iowa.

“Unlike many of our neighboring states, the citizens of Iowa do not have the ability to put this issue on the ballot as a referendum,” Trone Garriott said. “We think it’s time Iowans got to have a voice and a vote in this matter. It is time to let Iowans decide and that’s what constitutional amendment will do.”


by Nikoel Hytrek

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  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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