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Three Iowa Democrats want voters to decide whether marijuana gets legalized

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 11:23 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Three Iowa state senators called for a new constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana at a news conference on Tuesday.

Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in 19 states, including Illinois. Two senators from the Des Moines area and one from Iowa City announced their plan to let voters decide if Iowa could become the 20th state to legalize it.

“Marijuana prohibition has been a costly failure,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said. “It’s ending across America because it has caused far more harm than good.”

In Iowa, medical CBD use is legal, however, distributors cannot give patients products that contain more than four and a half grams of THC in a 90-day period.

The senators cited a Des Moines Register poll from the spring that shows 54% of Iowans think recreational marijuana should be legalized. It also showed that 78% of the state thinks its medical use should be expanded.

Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights, said Iowa Republicans are not listening to voters.

“The world is changing around us and Iowa is getting left behind,” Trone Garriott said. Unlike many of our neighboring states, the citizens of Iowa do not have the ability to put this issue on the ballot as referendum. So we think it’s time that Iowans got to have a voice and a vote in this matter.”

Bolkcom said essentially they want the state to treat marijuana like alcohol, making it legal for anyone 21 or older.

“Right now, you can go to Hy-Vee or Kum & Go, and buy a six-pack of beer,” Bolkcom said. “What this constitutional amendment would do ... it would basically begin to treat marijuana like we treat a six-pack of beer.”

Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said keeping marijuana illegal ultimately puts the burden on taxpayers.

“Iowans are tired of filling our prisons with nonviolent offenders, “ Petersen said. “Traumatizing families with separation and taking away opportunities from far too many young adults for something that is legal in nearly half the states in our country.”

The proposal requires a simple majority in both the state house and senate in two consecutive General Assemblies to be included on a ballot. Once on the ballot, more than half of Iowans need to vote for the amendment for it to become a part of the state’s constitution.

The three senators said they already submitted language to the Legislative Services Agency to propose this amendment in the next legislative session.

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