Where Chuck Grassley And Mike Franken Stand On Legal Weed

Polls show that Iowans’ support of legalizing recreational marijuana has reached new highs, but where do Iowa’s two US Senate candidates stand on the issue?

Michael Franken, the Democratic candidate from Sioux City, has been vocal about legalizing cannabis at the federal level, removing it as a controlled substance, and addressing imprisonment for marijuana-related offenses, which disproportionately and predominantly affects Black Iowans.

“I view the medicinal use of marijuana and the recreational use, controlled much like we do with alcohol, to be absolutely fine and well overdue,” Franken told reporters on Iowa Press in June. “And we should have the federal statutes put in place where money, revenue generated by taxing THC is used for interstate commerce just like it would for anything else.”

Federally, marijuana is classed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which includes drugs such as heroin and LSD. In Iowa, you can get up to six months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000 for possession, even if it’s a first-time offense.

On the other hand and despite his surname, Sen. Chuck Grassley doesn’t support legalization for recreational use. He does support hemp production and medical marijuana, though with restrictions, and he continually calls for more studies on the question of marijuana use.

“I am in support of medicinal marijuana, but not on a willy-nilly basis,” he told Starting Line at a town hall in early September. Grassley clarified that means the medical marijuana should go through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and efficacy checks.

“I want to be very careful that it’s got quality,” he said. “And in regards to recreational marijuana, I do not support it at this point because I gotta have proof that it doesn’t lead to higher, harder drugs.”

His opposition goes back years.

“Marijuana is illegal because it is dangerous. When you smoke marijuana, or use any other drug, it negatively affects your brain. It changes the way you think, your ability to learn, and how well you can remember,” he said in 2020 in response to someone reaching out to his office. “It can also lead to addiction and has been linked to later abuse of other drugs in long-term studies done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. For these reasons, I have opposed legislation that would legalize or otherwise expand the marijuana industry.”

In 2016, Grassley said in a Senate hearing: “Our country is in the middle of an epidemic of addiction focused on heroin and prescription opioids. And just last year, the Centers for Disease Control found that people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin. So if the Obama Administration is serious about addressing this epidemic, it should stop burying its head in the sand about what’s happening to its enforcement priorities on recreational marijuana.”

When the US House passed a bill in 2021 to decriminalize marijuana, Grassley issued a statement urging research to fully understand the effects of marijuana use.

“This new bill puts the cart before the horse,” he said. “It’s important that we have robust research and fully understand the good and the bad of marijuana use, especially in young people and over the long term.”

In Iowa, cannabis remains illegal and criminalized and only CBD oil is legal for medicinal use.

Meanwhile, a majority of Iowans support marijuana legalization. The polling firm Civiqs has found that 65% of Iowans think the use of cannabis should be legal with only 24% saying no and 10% saying they’re unsure. Even 42% of Republicans say it should be legal, with 87% of Democrats and 71% of Independents agreeing.

A Des Moines Register poll shows 54% of adults favor legalized recreational marijuana, with 39% opposing it. More people, 78%, want Iowa’s medical marijuana program (already narrow) to be expanded.

Democrats in the Iowa Legislature tried to legalize recreational marijuana in March this year, but the motion was struck down without a hearing.

Illinois legalized recreational use in 2019 and allows Iowans to cross the border and purchase a certain amount per day. That doesn’t include taking it back into Iowa, but enforcement is up to Iowa law enforcement, and many have said it’s not a priority issue. Eighteen states have fully legalized marijuana.

Since legalizing marijuana, Illinois has seen billions in cannabis sales. By November 2021, dispensaries were selling more than $100 million per month on average.


Nikoel Hytrek

Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at nikoel@iowastartingline.com. You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

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