In the latest step towards future growth and modernization, Iowa has introduced a marijuana legalization bill to the State. On February 21, 2023, lawmakers in the Iowa House of Representative unveiled the proposed legislation to the public. Is passed, the legislation could legalize the possession of cannabis containing up to 500 milligrams of THC for adults aged 21 and older with valid identification. It would also “seek to decrease penalties for marijuana possession and expunge records for non-violent marijuana convictions,” according to the announcement.
Iowa citizens have previously expressed interest in legalizing cannabis prior to this, as well. A Des Moines Register poll in 2021 found that 54% of adults in Iowa supported legalizing cannabis for recreational use, while 39% said they were opposed. Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, has also “opposed any efforts to legalize marijuana in Iowa”, even going so far as to veto a previous amendment to the state’s existing medical marijuana bill.
Despite the strong support from the citizens and the House democrats, the new bill still faces long odds in Iowa’s General Assembly, where both the state Senate and House are controlled by Republicans who have expressed that they’re in no mood for recreational legalization of marijuana.
The bill introduced by Democrats would allow “Iowans 21 and older to purchase weed for recreational use from a licensed store, and includes a 10% excise tax and 1% surcharge,” and would “would funnel money towards schools, mental health, and local public safety departments,” according to the democratic spokesperson. This would help funnel the current cannabis taxes being paid out of state back into the state of Iowa, keeping the tax revenue local for state use.
The bill would also eliminate criminal penalties for individuals possessing up to a half-ounce of marijuana and would reclassify such possession as a civil penalty. It would also reduce other possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors and expunge criminal records of nonviolent marijuana possession convictions, driving down the state’s crime and allowing thousands of Iowans to have a clean record after the change.
Unfortunately, GOP party leaders do not expect the recreational marijuana legalization bill to pass or even to advance this year, but the fact that discussions are being started means that the coming years may bring a much-needed change to Iowa’s current laws.