Once again Senate Democrats tried to legalize recreational marijuana for the state of Iowa, and once again they were struck down without a hearing.
Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) introduced the amendment early today, which would amend the Iowa Constitution and eventually leave the decision up to voters. It would regulate marijuana the way the state does alcohol and make it legal for anyone 21 or older to purchase marijuana.
Ultimately the amendment was rejected as not germane because it wasn’t related to the argument at hand about a bill concerning heroin penalties.
But Democrats did make the point that Iowans broadly want this. In a Des Moines Register Poll published in March, 54% of adults said they supported recreational marijuana. Even more Iowans (78% of adults) want the medical marijuana program expanded.
“I would encourage us to consider moving forward with a constitutional amendment,” said Sen. Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines). “This is something that Senate Republicans have put forward on a number of other constitutional amendments because you believe voters should be heard at the ballot box. What this constitutional amendment says is that we trust voters.”
In addition, senators pointed out legalization would create a new revenue stream for the state and disrupt the illegal market by providing a safe, regulated one.
“It’s estimated that new revenue would be in the range of $60-100 million annually,” said Sen. Jackie Smith (D-Sioux City). “Nineteen states now regulate marijuana like recreational alcohol. We’re surrounded by them. And it was the voters in South Dakota that spoke during the 2020 elections to approve of marijuana use for adults. So I think giving voters a voice on this is what they want.”
Bolkcom emphasized how current marijuana policy disproportionately hurts Black Iowans and their families, and that people who have these charges on their permanent records face challenges for the rest of their lives.
“Gov. Reynolds and Senate Republicans’ failure to debate or even tell us why they are opposed to reform is insulting,” he said. “You should tell Iowans why you don’t trust them to have legal access to marijuana like tens of millions of other Americans.”
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