Senators propose Iowa constitutional amendment ending marijuana prohibition

Democratic state senators Joe Bolkcom, Janet Petersen and Sarah Trone Garriot introduced a constitutional amendment during a Tuesday afternoon press conference that would end marijuana prohibition in the state of Iowa.

The amendment, which will need support from Republican leadership to pass, targets regulating marijuana like alcohol for adults 21 years of age and older.

“Right now, you can go to Hy-Vee or Kum & Go and buy a six pack of beer and it’s legal to do that,” said Mr. Bolkcom. “You can’t go to a retail location in Iowa and buy a joint or marijuana because it’s criminally against the law. This constitutional amendment would begin to treat marijuana like we treat a six pack of beer.”

The senators want Iowa to join the 19 other states who make this practice possible and to join states that have taken away criminal penalties from the use and possession of marijuana, he added.

After pointing to inaction and opposition on the other side of the aisle from Republicans and Governor Kim Reynolds on the issue, the senators spoke about the popularity of this issue and the unfair effect current policies have on the criminal justice system.

“The citizens of Iowa do not have the ability to put this issue on the ballot as a referendum,” said Ms. Garriot. “We think it’s time Iowans get to have voice and vote on this matter.”

“I think for people my age, nobody ever thought this would happen,” he said. “It’s coming across the country. This has become a mainstream issue. The majority of Iowans support this. The Republicans are in the minority on this.”

Ms. Petersen said that a surprising number of older Iowans also support this issue, due to the impact it will have on jobs and the state budget, the health issues they may be experiencing, and disapproving of current drug policies that hurt Iowa families. Mr. Bolkcom also emphasized how costly marijuana convictions are to local police departments, which drives up property tax bills.

“Marijuana use is happening in our state,” she added. “It’s accessible in neighboring states. So we are dealing with the challenges of policing and enforcing our existing laws … but we have no access to any of the tax revenue. I’ve spoken with farmers who are interested to learn more about the opportunities; they see a connection to the hemp industry.”

The board governing Iowa’s medical marijuana program voted unanimously in November to recommend the Iowa Legislature increase the number of dispensary licenses statewide past the current limit of five, at the discretion of the state health department, according to a report from the Quad-City Times.