IOWA CITY — On Monday, April 20 — a day that has become a sort of marijuana holiday — several University of Iowa students handed out “pot brownies” at the center of campus.
The prepackaged treats weren’t actually laced with illicit drugs. Instead, the UI chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty distributed the 250 prepackaged Wal-Mart brownies out of a clay flower pot in hopes of advocating for drug reform in Iowa.
“The whole purpose is to inspire some conversation around drug policy in the U.S.,” said UI junior Michael Corrie, a member of the local Young Americans for Liberty group. “The end game is to have some kind of federal law. But we would be perfectly happy to see some change at the state level.”
More than 20 states have medical cannabis programs legalizing multiple forms of the drug for treatment of medical conditions and providing for local acquisition of cannabis. Other states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.
Iowa last year legalized the possession and use of up to 32 ounces of cannabidiol for the sole purpose of treating intractable epilepsy under a physician’s care. But some have said the law is overly limiting.
Lawmakers have crafted new legislation this year to address the deficiencies, and the Iowa Senate last week voted to establish a comprehensive medical cannabis program for Iowans seeking an alternate form of relief from various diseases and conditions.
The measure would authorize the production and dispensing of medical cannabis for expanded uses and medical conditions.
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Supporters say the proposal is a “safe, legal, affordable, effective, highly regulated way for Iowans” to access medical marijuana that also contains safeguards to keep it from providing a pathway to legalized recreational use. Opponents say the measure is a “political” statement by Democrats that will not be taken up by the GOP-led House.
Corrie on Monday said legalizing medical marijuana at the state level is a good place to start, and he asked UI students passing by his “pot brownie” display on the Pentacrest to sign up to receive more information about those efforts.
But, Corrie said, he eventually would like to see all marijuana use decriminalized.
“The No. 1 thing that we are concerned about is our massive incarceration rate,” he said. “Is there any benefit to locking people up for non-violent drug offenses?”
He said Iowa is losing thousands of dollars processing marijuana violators and housing them in local jails. The state also is missing out on potential revenue from marijuana production, according to Corrie.
“But we are willing to work our way through all the steps to get where we want to go,” he said.
Four-twenty is a code that refers to cannabis consumption and thus April 20, along with 4:20, have become synonymous with marijuana use for some.
UI senior Grant Thompson, 21, passed by Corrie’s pro-marijuana demonstration Monday and said he supports legalizing the drug — both because he feels offenders are needlessly jailed and because of its potential medical benefits.
“It’s not as harmful as tobacco or alcohol,” he said.
Thompson grabbed a brownie after signing up to receive more information but said he didn’t mind it being only a symbolic pot brownie.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff to do today,” he said.