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Inside the Iowa House: It’s Time to Legalize (February 25, 2023)

Just a few weeks ago, Missouri became the latest of our neighboring states to legalize recreational marijuana. Minnesota is expected to follow suit in the next few months and Illinois legalized recreational use a few years ago.

I think it’s time for Iowa to do the same. Not just because our neighboring states are doing it, but because a majority of Iowans want us to do it as well.

It’s the biggest reason why I joined more than 30 of my colleagues to introduce a new bill in the Iowa House this week to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.

We crafted a comprehensive legalization bill that will ensure product safety, 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.

It allows Iowans over the age of 21 to purchase marijuana for recreational use from a licensed retail store. There is a 10% excise tax on sales and a 1% local option surcharge with the revenue going to public schools, mental health services, and local public safety.

Other provisions include decreasing penalties for marijuana possession and expunging records for non-violent marijuana convictions. The bill also expands Iowa’s medical cannabis program to get relief to more Iowans with chronic pain.

While some still think marijuana is taboo, it’s not taboo for most Iowans these days. I’ve heard support for legalization come from Iowans in rural and urban areas who consider themselves Independents, Democrats, and Republicans.

For years, Iowans have been advocating for safe relief from their chronic pain while Governor Reynolds and too many lawmakers have turned them away and left them with addictive opioids as their only option. We need cannabis laws that restore folks’ dignity, that honors their struggle with chronic illness, and offers a safer alternative to harsh narcotics during an opioid epidemic.

Other Iowans have told me they want the same freedom those have in neighboring states to access safe marijuana products for recreational use. Unregulated marijuana can be laced with a multitude of psychoactive drugs with varied effects. Legalizing the use of recreational marijuana for adult use allows the state to regulate who grows and manufactures the product, offering a dependable substance for Iowans to use.

Additionally, the state is losing out on huge fiscal benefits to invest in education and our local communities. Recent estimates of marijuana sales in Missouri top $500 million in the first year alone. In Colorado, more than $12 billion in marijuana has been sold since legalization in 2014 and the state collected over $2 billion in taxes.

It’s clear to me that support for legalization in Iowa is growing every day and it isn’t partisan at all. There is solid support for legalization amongst Iowans of all parties.

In a session dominated by politics so far, I think legalizing marijuana would be a good step to get the Iowa Legislature focused on issues that people care about.

It’s time: let’s legalize marijuana.

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