Democratic senators in Iowa published a joint resolution to put a marijuana legalization question on the state’s 2024 ballot.
The proposed constitutional amendment would legalize “the possession, growth, cultivation, processing, manufacture, preparation, packaging, transferal, consumption, and retail sale and purchase of cannabis, or products created from or including cannabis, by persons 21 years of age or older.”
In order to qualify a proposed constitutional amendment for the ballot in Iowa, it must be approved by the General Assembly twice over two separate sessions. This means the earliest point at which voters could have their say is November 2024.
The trio of lawmakers behind the move, Sens. Janet Petersen, Sarah Trone Garriott, and Joe Bolkom, said continued opposition in the GOP-controlled legislature to marijuana legalization proposals left them with no option but to pursue the reform through a referendum.
“We are proposing this constitutional amendment for voters to decide because Republicans have repeatedly refused to engage in any meaningful debate about marijuana reform,” Bolkcom said. “Governor [Kim] Reynolds is strongly opposed to marijuana reform and, of the 92 Republicans currently in the Iowa General Assembly, there is not a single member that has expressed support for regulating marijuana like alcohol.”
In a press statement, Trone Garriott said “marijuana is easily accessible for adult use in neighboring states. Because of that, Iowa still has all of the challenges of this issue, but we get none of benefits.”
“We are missing out on new, significant tax revenue, tax dollars that we could put to work in our state. We are missing out on new jobs, and young people are moving elsewhere for the opportunities in this industry,” she added.
The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division would assume responsibility for the legal cannabis industry in Iowa under the proposed measure. The legislature would be called upon to determine the general and “supplemental” tax rates for recreational marijuana products, with a cap of 20 percent for the former and two percent for the latter. General tax revenues would go toward the state fund, while supplemental tax revenues would be allocated to the municipality where the sale took place.
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republicans leaders in the General Assembly have been hostile to past cannabis reform proposals, which is largely why Iowa’s marijuana laws are some of the strictest in the US and its medical cannabis program one of the most restrictive.
Legislation to decriminalize marijuana possession passed an Iowa Senate subcommittee last year, but has faltered since then. Despite the lack of progress on cannabis reform, marijuana legalization enjoys the support of a majority of Iowa voters, according to recent polling.
“Iowa’s outdated, old-school drug policies are failing Iowans in rural parts of the state and urban areas as well. It’s time to move forward with better drug policies that uplift Iowans instead of criminalizing them,” Petersen said in a press statement. “Republicans have said time after time during Constitutional Amendment debates that they trust the voters to decide. We believe it is time to trust Iowa voters. Let’s give Iowans the freedom to vote on this issue. I encourage Iowans to contact their legislators in the coming days to urge them to push for the debate and passage of this Constitutional Amendment in the upcoming session.”
However, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Zaun (R ) has been quick to shoot down the Democrat’s proposal.
“Gimmicks like a constitutional amendment on recreational marijuana do a better job of illustrating the lack of ideas Senate Democrats have to solve the problems of Iowans than any response I have,” Zaun told the Quad-City Times.