Nearly 40 Democrats from across the state of Iowa put their collective voice together on January 6th to call for cannabis legalization in 2021. Legislators ranging from city council members to state senators want to regulate recreational marijuana at the same level as alcohol, though they might be facing a major roadblock.
Republicans, who currently hold the senate majority in Iowa, are opposed to the measure. In fact, no republican has publicly supported that call to legalize adult-use cannabis. Nevertheless, Democrats are proposing three bills:
- An establishment of cannabis regulations that are similar to that of alcohol.
- An elimination of criminal penalties for personal-use cannabis possession and expungement of prior criminal offenses.
- Giving local governments authority to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana if they choose.
Iowa Cannabis Movement Rooted in Social Justice
Advocates for reform in Iowa have cited marijuana legalization as a vital step forward in addressing racial inequity in the state’s criminal justice system. Black Iowans are 7x times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white peers, according to a report released by the ACLU of Iowa.
“Regulating marijuana like alcohol is the right thing to do,” Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said. He went on to note that not only would legalizing marijuana address racial injustice issues, but it would also satisfy a medical need for those who might want to use the substance for pain relief.
State Sandwiched By Recreational Marijuana
With South Dakota legalizing marijuana in November and Illinois setting record sales for cannabis in 2020, the state of Iowa lies directly between two states whose economies will likely be benefiting greatly from the sale of cannabis (after South Dakota’s program officially boots up on July 1).
State Senator Jackie Smith (D-Sioux City) fears that her city’s economy may suffer by people going just over state lines into South Dakota. “I don’t want to see Iowa money leave the state and go to another state,” she said.