Three Democrats in the Iowa Senate are proposing a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana possession in Iowa for anyone who’s 21 or older. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said it’s time to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
“Marijuana prohibition has been a costly failure,” Bolkcom said. “It’s ending across America because it’s caused far more harm than good.”
Bolkcom hosted an online news conference early this afternoon to discuss the concept of “basically (beginning) to treat marijuana like we treat a six-pack of beer.”
Bolkcom cited statistics indicating more than 4300 Iowans were convicted of marijuana possession in 2020 and he said taxpayers paid millions to cover the costs of their prison time.
“A lot of Iowans will see some benefit from essentially eradicating those expenses from our tax bills,” Bolkcom said.
Senator Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, cited a Des Moines Register Poll showing a majority of Iowans support legalizing marijuana rather than continuing to pursue criminal charges against those who smoke or possess it.
“Iowans are tired of filling our prisons with nonviolent offenders, traumatizing families with separation and taking away opportunities for too many young adults for something that is legal is nearly half the states in our country,” she said.
Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, a Democrat from West Des Moines, indicated 19 states now let residents use marijuana for a wide range of medical conditions or for recreational use.
“The world is changing around us and Iowa is getting left behind,” Trone Garriott said.
The three Democrats say Governor Kim Reynolds and Republicans who control a majority of seats in the legislature have resisted expansion of Iowa’s very limited medical marijuana program. The cannabis products available today in Iowa have THC levels that make them ineffective as medicine, according to Bolkcom.
“It’s time for Governor Reynolds and legislative Republicans to allow voters the freedom to decide,” Bolkcom said. “It’s time to hear their voices and bring marijuana reform to Iowa.”
It takes years to amend the Iowa Constitution and this proposal faces a tough road ahead in a Republican-led legislature. The proposal, being introduced as a resolution the three Democrats in the state senate, does not have Republican co-sponsors.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he has “no intentions” of bringing the bill up for a vote.
“Gimmicks like a constitutional amendment on recreational marijuana do a better job of illustrating the lack of ideas Senate Democrats have to solve the problems of Iowans than any response I have,” said Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale. “We will continue cutting taxes, supporting law enforcement, and empowering parents in their children’s education.”