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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa Democrats have a new plan to legalize marijuana and “regulate it like alcohol.”
That’s their slogan, at least. What they’re really proposing is a much harsher set of regulations on a substance that is much safer than alcohol.
A group of Iowa Senate Democrats last week announced they will propose a constitutional amendment next year to legalize and regulate marijuana for Iowans 21 and older. If the resolution is approved by two separate general assemblies, it would go to a statewide vote.
Does the proposal have any Republican support, which would be necessary for passage in the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature? Democrats didn’t bother to check.
“I have not asked what Republicans might be interested in moving forward with this but I can tell you they certainly seem interested in constitutional amendments as that has been a strategy they have followed in giving Iowans the freedom to vote on initiatives such as guns and pregnancy rights of Iowans as well,” state Sen. Janet Petersen said.
The idea is a gimmick, Republican state Sen. Brad Zaun told the Iowa Torch. He’s chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the biggest GOP proponent of decreasing penalties for marijuana possession, so if he’s opposed then it has no hope.
The proposal to put marijuana legalization in the Iowa Constitution is more of a political ploy than an earnest attempt at policymaking. And that’s OK — politicians do politics and members of the minority party don't have many tools at their disposal. But if Democrats are going to put forth a resolution with no chance of passing, they could do a lot better than trying to copy other states’ burdensome regulatory regimes.
Iowa Democrats say their intent is to “treat marijuana like we treat a six-pack of beer” but they also point to the states that have legalized marijuana as models Iowa could follow. Those two things are not the same. There is nowhere in America where producing, selling or buying legal marijuana is as easy as it is for beer.
A bill introduced last year by the same legislators was framed as regulating marijuana like alcohol but it went well beyond beer restrictions. It would have allowed local jurisdictions to prohibit marijuana establishments, limited sales to one ounce of product, prevented dispensaries from selling non-marijuana products and would not have allowed any on-site consumption. That doesn’t sound like liquor stores and taverns I’ve been to.
Iowa last year granted about 1,300 class C beer permits, allowing grocery stores and gas stations to sell beer to be consumed off-site, and several thousand more for other types of alcohol permits and licenses. No state has as many places to buy marijuana as Iowa has places to buy beer.
You can buy beer in Iowa most anywhere you can buy milk or petroleum. Some small communities survive after their post offices close, but having nowhere to buy beer is a sure sign that your town is on its last gasp.
A marijuana shop on every corner would be great but that’s not what Iowa Democrats are envisioning. Uninhibited by political reality, they should aim higher.
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