Three Iowa state senators advocated for a new constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana at a press conference on Tuesday.
Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in 19 states, including Illinois. Two senators from the Des Moines region and one from Iowa City unveiled their intention to let voters determine if Iowa might become the 20th state to legalize it.
“Marijuana prohibition has been an expensive failure,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said. “It’s ending across America because it has caused far more harm than good.”
In Iowa, medicinal CBD usage is permitted, but distributors cannot provide patients products that contain more than four and a half grams of THC in 90 days.
The senators highlighted a Des Moines Register poll from the spring that indicates 54 percent of Iowans thought recreational marijuana should be allowed. It also found that 78 percent of the state feels its medicinal usage should be extended.
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 surrounding states, the residents of Iowa do not have the power to place this subject on the ballot as a referendum. So we think it’s time that I once got to have a voice and a vote in this matter.”
Bolkcom said fundamentally, and they want the state to treat marijuana like alcohol, making it legal for anybody 21 or older.
“Right now, you can go to Hy-Vee or Kum & Go, and get a six-pack of beer,” Bolkcom remarked. “What this constitutional amendment would do … it would effectively begin to treat marijuana as we treat a six-pack of beer.”
Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said keeping marijuana illegal eventually puts the burden on taxpayers.
“Iowans are tired of overloading our jails with nonviolent criminals, “ Petersen said. “Traumatizing families with separation and taking away possibilities from far too many young adults for something that is legal in over half the states in our country.”
The proposition requires a simple majority in both the statehouse and Senate in two consecutive General Assemblies to be listed 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 claimed they previously submitted text to the Parliamentary Services Agency to propose this modification in the upcoming legislative session.