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Iowa Democrats propose legalizing recreational marijuana through constitutional amendment

The amendment would require the majority of Iowa voters to approve the measure.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A group of Iowa democratic state senators are calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana. As of right now, if you're caught smoking, dealing, or growing marijuana in Iowa you can spend years in prison. It's what democrats want to change. 

Senators Joe Bolkcom, Janet Petersen, and Sarah Trone Garriott held a press conference Tuesday, announcing they will be proposing a constitutional amendment during the next legislative session that would treat marijuana like alcohol in the state of Iowa. 

"It would basically begin to treat marijuana like we treat a six pack of beer, and so that consumers would be able to legally purchase it if they are 21 years of age and older," Bolkcom said. 

A constitutional amendment takes several steps to be passed. Most importantly, it goes to the general population in the state, giving voters a direct impact on the decision. 

"When you're voting on a constitutional amendment, you're voting for an opportunity for Iowans to make the decision. And so that's where it's a little different than bills that have been before the legislature in the past," Petersen said. "It would need to pass through the legislature, this General Assembly, the next General Assembly, and then it would go to voters." 

From there, if a majority of Iowa voters approve, marijuana would be legalized. 

"We hope that Republicans will see the value of giving this decision over to Iowa voters," Bolkcom said. 

Democrats also taking time to highlight the unfair enforcement of current marijuana laws. Senator Bolkcom explained drawing attention to the racial injustice associated with marijuana arrests. 

"You're eight times more likely as a Brown or Black person to be stopped by the police than if you're a white guy like me. And any law that can't be enforced fairly, in my view is a bad law," Bolkcom said. 

The senators also note the economic benefits for the state, pointing to neighboring states like Illinois to show what could be done with state funds as well as what costs could be avoided by legalizing marijuana. 

"When you think about the cost of of doing convictions on 4,300-plus Iowans a year, it's really expensive for your county attorney, your county sheriff, your local police department, all of that property taxes," Bolkcom said. "That's a major impact that I think a lot of Iowans will see some benefit from simply eradicating those offenses to our tax bills." 

If Iowa were to legalize marijuana they would join 19 other states that have already passed the law. 

News 8 reached out to the Iowa Republican Party for comment but has not received a response at this time. 

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