DES MOINES, Iowa – State Senators Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, and Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights, on Wednesday, said Iowans should decide whether or not the state should legalize recreational marijuana use.
They want a constitutional amendment that would regulate marijuana like alcohol for adults over 21.
They said marijuana prohibition has failed and said Republicans have stood in the way of reforming Iowa’s law.
“We are proposing an Iowa Constitutional amendment to end marijuana prohibition because Governor Reynolds and legislative Republicans have opposed every sensible marijuana reform. This is how Iowa voters can end the damage that marijuana prohibition does to Iowa families,” Bolkcom said. “Since they refuse to do it themselves, Republicans now should join us in giving voters the freedom to decide. If given the chance, I’m confident that Iowans will vote to regulate marijuana for adults like alcohol.”
They also pointed out that 19 other states.
“Iowans are ready to join the growing list of states that are regulating marijuana for adult use,” Petersen said. “Nineteen states have already done so. Iowans are tired of filling our prisons with nonviolent offenders, traumatizing families with separation, and taking away opportunities from far too many young adults for something that is legal in nearly half of the country. Iowans want to move forward with better drug policies.”
Among Iowa’s neighbors, Illinois is the only state to legalize marijuana fully. Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and North Dakota have decriminalized marijuana. In addition, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Dakota legalized marijuana for medical use.
Iowa allows CBD oil but initially capped the percentage of THC in CBD products at three percent. In 2020, the Iowa Legislature passed, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation that removes that percentage limit per product, replacing it with a 4.5g THC per 90-day purchase limit.
Democrats pointed out public support for the measure. In March, a Des Moines Register poll showed that 54 percent of Iowans supported regulating marijuana like alcohol and 78 percent supported legalizing medical marijuana.
“Public opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Iowans approve of regulating marijuana for adult use. Unfortunately, the Republican-dominated legislature has failed to act, let alone even hold a public hearing so that we can talk about the issue,” Trone Garriott stated. “Meanwhile the world is changing around us, and we are getting left behind. 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. 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.”
A constitutional amendment requires passage in two concurrent general assemblies before Iowans can vote on such a measure. Any proposed constitutional amendment would require significant Republican support since Republicans enjoy a 32 to 18 majority.
During a virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the Iowa Torch asked if the sponsors of this amendment had any Republican support.
“I have not asked what Republicans might be interested in moving forward on this. But I can tell you that they certainly seem interested in constitutional amendments as that has been a strategy that they’ve followed in giving Iowans the freedom to vote on initiatives such as guns and pregnancy rights of Iowans as well. So we’re hopeful that they will let the people decide as they have decided to do on so many other issues on their agenda,” Petersen answered.
State Senator Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, the chairman of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Iowa Torch that their proposed bill would be dead on arrival.
“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. We will continue cutting taxes, supporting law enforcement, and empowering parents in their children’s education. I have no intentions of advancing this bill out of the Judiciary Committee,” he said.