According to a report, Iowa House Democrats have unveiled legislation in a bid to legalize marijuana, citing competition from adjacent states.
House Minority Whip Representative Lindsay James of Dubuque said that the bill gained widespread support from the Iowa public and neighboring states and believes the time is now ripe to seek marijuana legalization.
The marijuana legalization bill will seek to keep Iowan cannabis users safe, ensure that tax revenue stays within the state of Iowa, and bolster the quality of life of people in Iowa suffering from chronic illnesses that could otherwise be treated with medicinal marijuana.
Marijuana Legalization Bill Under a Microscope
Currently, cannabis legalization is one of the Iowa Democratic Party’s major legislative priorities. The bill would furthermore seek to legalize the use of recreational marijuana containing up to 500mg of THC for adults aged 21 and older with a valid ID.
The bill and its stipulations are modeled after similar laws in Missouri, Illinois, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
As far as criminal justice reform is concerned, the bill will look to lower the penalty for marijuana possession of half an ounce or less to that of a civil penalty–also decreasing other penalties for possession from felonies to misdemeanors.
Furthermore, the bill would allow individuals, as identified by Iowa courts, to erase possession from their criminal records two years after a conviction, provided no violent offenses were recorded during that period.
Gaining Positive Traction, Or Is It?
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst is enthusiastic that the bill is an opportunity to put partisanship aside and finally work together to aid the Iowa public. Konfrst made special mention of the nature of the bill, emphasizing that it “isn’t about politics, it’s about people,” citing ongoing calls from the public to legalize marijuana use for adults.
Considering this, marijuana legalization is still highly unlikely to get passed a rigid Republican-run legislature, with many republicans stating that they do not expect that cannabis expansion laws will gain much traction this year.
Despite Konfrst lamenting about the ideal of democrats and republicans working together in aid of the Iowan people, republicans in the session are still vehemently opposed to the bill and its stipulations. This indicates that a long battle still lies ahead, which could extend far beyond the congressional session.
It will be quite the uphill getting republican buy-in for the marijuana legalization bill. Although many republicans have stated they understand the value of encouraging the discourse around cannabis legalization, the vast majority have taken the hard stance that they would never go all the way regarding legalization.
Regulation And More Tax
The bill would also go far to consolidate economic efforts in expanding retail marijuana sales. As per the Alcoholic Beverage Division, retail marijuana outlets would be regulated with a seed-to-sale tracking system set up to offset the deluge in the transition from the black market to more legal, regulated use. Thus, an establishment will have to be licensed by the state to trade cannabis products.
The bill will also create new streams of tax revenue for state, county, and local governments and would include an additional 10 percent excise tax on cannabis retail sales, which would be directed to Iowa schools, local public safety, and mental health services. Individual counties will also have the option of imposing a perfect extra surcharge on state and local taxes.
On paper, the bill to legalize and decriminalize marijuana in Iowa will go far to please a hyped public who is itching to take that puff legally. Substantively though, it can’t be said whether or not the bill will see the light of being gazetted before the year is out. No doubt, a lengthy battle lies ahead with a ton of back and forth. But with the session in full swing, hope remains that ideologies can be changed and marijuana destigmatized.
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