Democratic lawmakers in Iowa on Tuesday introduced legislation that would legalize adult-use marijuana in the state and pave the way for a regulated cannabis market.
“We’ve listened to Iowans and heard from people of all parties in all corners of the state who strongly believe it’s time to legalize marijuana. This common-sense bill we’re introducing today isn’t about politics, it’s about people,” said Jennifer Konfrst, the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, as quoted by local news station KCRG. “Our bill is an opportunity this session to put partisanship aside and work together to get something done that a majority of Iowans want.”
The bill, according to KCRG, would also expand Iowa’s existing medical cannabis program.
It would also “seek to decrease penalties for marijuana possession and expunge records for non-violent marijuana convictions,” according to the station.
“It is across party lines. It is across the place where you live in the state: rural, urban and suburban. And it is time to do this,” Konfrst said, as quoted by The Gazette.
There is polling data to back Konfrst’s assertion.
A Des Moines Register poll in 2021 found that 54% of adults in Iowa supported legalizing cannabis for recreational use, while 39% said they were opposed.
Another poll from the Des Moines Register released the year prior showed virtually the same numbers.
Odds in the Iowa General Assembly
But the new bill still faces long odds in Iowa’s General Assembly, where both the state Senate and House are controlled by Republicans who have signaled they’re in no mood for legalization.
“I have been clear in the past that I do not believe marijuana legalization is the right path forward for Iowa,” said Republicans state House Steve Holt, as quoted by The Gazette. “This is not an issue that has received much support from the judiciary committee in my time as chair, and I do not expect this session to be different. Iowans have expressed a very different set of priorities to me and my Republican colleagues.”
The Gazette noted that Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, has also “opposed any efforts to legalize marijuana in Iowa.”
In 2019, Reynolds vetoed a measure that “sought [to] amend and expand the state’s low-THC/high CBD access program,” and “would have expanded the pool of health professionals eligible to recommend medical cannabis products and it would have opened the program up to those with severe or chronic pain. It also would have removed the three percent THC cap on medical cannabis products,” according to NORML.
“Ultimately, I believe Iowa must proceed cautiously to ensure that any expansion of our medical CBD program is thoughtful and deliberate,” Reynolds said in her veto statement at the time, as quoted by NORML.
The bill introduced this week by Democrats would allow “Iowans 21 and older to purchase weed for recreational use from a licensed store, and includes a 10% excise tax and 1% surcharge,” and would “would funnel money towards schools, mental health, and local public safety departments,” according to local news station KWWL.
“Imagine that kind of revenue to Iowa schools, mental health services and local public safety,” said Democratic state House Rep. Lindsay James, a co-sponsor of the proposal, as quoted by The Gazette.
James pointed to the success of Colorado’s recreational cannabis program.
“I will say this: in 2021 alone Colorado’s marijuana industry generated $423 million in tax revenue,” James said, as quoted by Radio Iowa.
According to Radio Iowa, the proposal would also clear the way for referendums to “determine if a marijuana business could be established in a county.”
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