Iowa Lawmakers Unveil Marijuana Legalization Bill

Democratic lawmakers in the Iowa House of Representatives on Tuesday introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. If passed into law, the legislation would legalize the possession of cannabis containing up to 500 milligrams of THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, for adults aged 21 and older with valid identification. The bill, which has not yet been formally introduced in the House, also sets the stage for regulated commercial cannabis sales and establishes a tax on licensed marijuana sales.

“We’ve listened to Iowans and heard from people of all parties in all corners of the state who strongly believe it’s time to legalize marijuana. This common-sense bill we’re introducing today isn’t about politics, it’s about people,” said House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst. “Our bill is an opportunity this session to put partisanship aside and work together to get something done that a majority of Iowans want.”

Legislation Reduces Penalties For Pot Possession

The bill also eliminates criminal penalties for possessing up to a half-ounce of marijuana, reclassifying such possession as a civil penalty. The measure also reduces other possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors and expunges criminal records of nonviolent marijuana possession convictions.

The legislation would allow regulated businesses to produce and distribute marijuana through licensed dispensaries and tasks the Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division with regulating the commercial cannabis industry. The bill also requires the division to implement a seed-to-sale tracking system to monitor regulated cannabis products and help prevent diversion to the illicit market.

The Democrats’ marijuana legalization plan sets a 10% tax on commercial cannabis products, with revenue dedicated to schools, mental health services and local public safety agencies. Additionally, counties would be permitted to levy an additional 1% surcharge on state and local taxes.

Konfrst said that legalizing marijuana in Iowa would keep cannabis tax revenue in Iowa instead of sending it to neighboring states with legal pot. Both Illinois and Michigan have legalized recreational marijuana.

Majority Of Iowans Support Legalizing Marijuana

The House Democratic Leader noted that there is strong support for marijuana legalization in Iowa. In a 2021 Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, 54% of adults said that they were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.

“It is across party lines,” said Konfrst. “It is across the place where you live in the state: rural, urban and suburban. And it is time to do this.”

“With strong support from Iowans and neighboring states that have already approved, it’s time to legalize marijuana for adult use,” said House Minority Whip Rep. Lindsay James of Dubuque. “The comprehensive bill we are introducing today will keep Iowans safe, stop our tax dollars from going to neighboring states, improve the quality of life for Iowans suffering from chronic illnesses and stop wasting state resources to unfairly punish Iowans.”

Although marijuana legalization is supported by a majority of Iowans, the bill is unlikely to be approved the state’s Republican-led legislature. Last month, GOP party leaders said they do not expect marijuana legalization bills to advance this year.

“I think there needs to be a deterrent in the law, but I understand the logic of having discussions about what the appropriate penalties should be and that sort of thing,” Republican Rep. Steven Holt, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said last year. “But in terms of making marijuana legal, that is something I would never support.”

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