Opinion | Legalize marijuana in Iowa

Iowa legislators must do the right thing and legalize marijuana.



Three Iowa lawmakers hope to legalize recreational marijuana through constitutional amendment. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Evan Weidl, Opinions Columnist

Iowa needs to loosen up and legalize marijuana.

Iowa House Democrats introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana last month. While the bill was terminated in Iowa Legislature last week, marijuana should still be at the top of lawmakers’ priorities.

While unsafe to use frequently, marijuana does not have more dangerous effects than alcohol. Therefore, it does not make sense for alcohol to be legal and the other illegal. Marijuana has been fully legalized in 21 states, and it’s time for Iowa to become the 22nd.

The enforcement of marijuana is a waste of time and resources for law enforcement. Legalizing marijuana would save U.S. taxpayers between $7 billion and $13 billion every year.

There are clear racial disparities within the enforcement of Iowa’s marijuana laws. The American Civil Liberties Union reported in 2013 that Iowa had the most severe racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the nation. Despite equal usage rates, a Black person is eight times more likely to be arrested for possession in Iowa. Legalizing marijuana would help do away with this gross injustice.

While the legislation introduced by Democrats is a progressive step forward, if Iowa legalizes marijuana, it must also expunge the records of anyone convicted for possession. This should go beyond the two-year mark proposed by Iowa Democrats.

Additionally, Iowa should commit to providing reparations for communities that have been negatively impacted by the implementation and enforcement of past marijuana laws. This includes investing in jobs and schools in those communities. These reparations could be funded by the significant revenue Iowa would receive from taxes placed on marijuana sales.

Legalizing marijuana would also boost the economy in Iowa. Since Colorado introduced a marijuana tax in 2014, it’s enjoyed over $2 billion in revenue. The state has used this revenue to boost its social programs, including education and public health.

Ultimately, Iowa legislators should legalize marijuana because it’s what people want. As of 2021, 54 percent of Iowa adults favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use compared to just 39 percent opposed, according to the  Des Moines Register. This number has skyrocketed since 2013, when 29 percent of Iowa adults favored legalization.

Even in a state that has recently seen an abundance of Republican electoral success, voters strongly favor the legalization of marijuana.

Opponents of legalizing marijuana may argue that legalization will cause more young people to start using marijuana. However, studies in Washington and Colorado demonstrated that the usage rate among young people actually fell after legalization.

Legalizing marijuana does not mean anyone will be able to get it at any time. Regulations on who can buy it and when can be implemented to ensure safety just as they are with alcohol.

Legal or not, people are going to find and create ways to distribute, obtain, and use marijuana. Thus, it is logical to ensure that the product they are using is safe. If marijuana is legalized, it can be regulated. Regulations such as licenses to sell marijuana, quality assurance, and lab testing will make it safer to use.

Marijuana legalization is a no-brainer. It helps fix a long-standing injustice, all while giving the economy a strong boost. Iowa must fully legalize marijuana.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.