Iowa lawmakers consider legalizing recreational marijuana – KCCI Des Moines

Recreational Cannabis Legalisation

Iowa is about to have two neighboring states where recreational marijuana is legal. South Dakota can begin selling marijuana on July 1. It became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.There is a renewed push by elected officials in Iowa to legalize pot. State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, is leading the charge. He wants Iowa to take the leap 15 other states have to regulate recreational marijuana like alcohol. “It’s time to recognize that marijuana prohibition has really been a failure, not only in Iowa but across the country,” said Bolkcom. “It’s just wrecked too many people’s lives in the form of a criminal record that really sets their lives and their family’s lives in a downward cycle of poverty.”Bolkcom plans to introduce two bills in the coming weeks. The first would regulate marijuana like alcohol modeled after Illinois’ bill. He also wants to decriminalize a small amount of marijuana for personal use by adults and allow local governments to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana within city limits. Marijuana possession would become a civil fine.Bolkcom says legalizing recreational marijuana in Iowa would create anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 new jobs and bring in anywhere from 60 to 100 million in state revenue. “The potential here is to create a lot of jobs and new revenue for things like mental health, substance abuse treatment and education funding,” said Bolkcom.Bolkcom now has a list of 44 public officials who support legalizing marijuana in Iowa. The list is made up of city council members, county supervisors and state lawmakers. Even with growing support, Bolkcom says he can not get one Republican on board. “I am not interested in making recreational marijuana legal in the state of Iowa. Mostly because of the negative impact it would have on our youth,” said Sen. Brad Zaun. Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, says as long as he is Judiciary Committee Chair recreational marijuana will not become legal in Iowa. “There is no doubt that if we legalize this, there is going to be kids looking to get ahold of this,” said Zaun. “I think it’s a terrible thing for young people. Do I recognize that that is happening now? Yes. But I think if you legalize recreational marijuana then it’s just going to open up the door, and it’s going to exasperate the problem.” Zaun says he would rather focus on expanding Iowa’s extremely limited medical cannabidiol program instead of legalizing recreational marijuana. He does acknowledge that many Iowans are crossing the border to spend their money on pot in other states. Illinois made nearly 700 million in its first year.”I don’t make decisions based on revenue generation. I make decisions based on what I think is right,” said Zaun. Bolkcom says he realizes that his bills will go nowhere in the Republican-controlled legislature. One thing he and Zaun do agree on is working to change state law to expunge someone’s record of a misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction.”There is so many youth, as well as adults, that this just haunts there for the rest of their life when it comes to scholarships or potential job opportunities or even housing,” said Zaun.

Iowa is about to have two neighboring states where recreational marijuana is legal. South Dakota can begin selling marijuana on July 1. It became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.

There is a renewed push by elected officials in Iowa to legalize pot. State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, is leading the charge. He wants Iowa to take the leap 15 other states have to regulate recreational marijuana like alcohol.

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“It’s time to recognize that marijuana prohibition has really been a failure, not only in Iowa but across the country,” said Bolkcom. “It’s just wrecked too many people’s lives in the form of a criminal record that really sets their lives and their family’s lives in a downward cycle of poverty.”

Bolkcom plans to introduce two bills in the coming weeks. The first would regulate marijuana like alcohol modeled after Illinois’ bill. He also wants to decriminalize a small amount of marijuana for personal use by adults and allow local governments to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana within city limits. Marijuana possession would become a civil fine.

Bolkcom says legalizing recreational marijuana in Iowa would create anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 new jobs and bring in anywhere from 60 to 100 million in state revenue.

“The potential here is to create a lot of jobs and new revenue for things like mental health, substance abuse treatment and education funding,” said Bolkcom.

Bolkcom now has a list of 44 public officials who support legalizing marijuana in Iowa. The list is made up of city council members, county supervisors and state lawmakers. Even with growing support, Bolkcom says he can not get one Republican on board.

“I am not interested in making recreational marijuana legal in the state of Iowa. Mostly because of the negative impact it would have on our youth,” said Sen. Brad Zaun.

Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, says as long as he is Judiciary Committee Chair recreational marijuana will not become legal in Iowa.

“There is no doubt that if we legalize this, there is going to be kids looking to get ahold of this,” said Zaun. “I think it’s a terrible thing for young people. Do I recognize that that is happening now? Yes. But I think if you legalize recreational marijuana then it’s just going to open up the door, and it’s going to exasperate the problem.”

Zaun says he would rather focus on expanding Iowa’s extremely limited medical cannabidiol program instead of legalizing recreational marijuana. He does acknowledge that many Iowans are crossing the border to spend their money on pot in other states. Illinois made nearly 700 million in its first year.

“I don’t make decisions based on revenue generation. I make decisions based on what I think is right,” said Zaun.

Bolkcom says he realizes that his bills will go nowhere in the Republican-controlled legislature. One thing he and Zaun do agree on is working to change state law to expunge someone’s record of a misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction.

“There is so many youth, as well as adults, that this just haunts there for the rest of their life when it comes to scholarships or potential job opportunities or even housing,” said Zaun.