Apr 11, 2022 - News

Despite demand, Iowa lawmakers see no future for legalizing cannabis

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While Congressional lawmakers are taking steps toward decriminalizing cannabis, Iowa Republicans say there's no appetite for it in their caucus.

Driving the news: The U.S. House passed a bill decriminalizing the possession and distribution of cannabis earlier this month — prompting Iowa activists to gather at the State Capitol and call on lawmakers to consider doing the same here, Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.

  • The result: The protest ended after activists were told they would be arrested.

State of play: In March, the Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll showed that 54% of Iowans support legalizing recreational marijuana and 78% support expanding the state's medical cannabis program.

What they're saying: Iowa Rep. Steven Holt, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said legalizing cannabis, "... is something I would never support," according to ICD.

  • Holt said decriminalizing it could increase usage in the state and be harmful for Iowans.
  • "I think it's kind of crazy, at a time when we're having so many mental health issues, and we know that many of these mental health issues are connected to substance abuse, that we would be talking about taking this step."

The other side: Just two and a half hours away from Des Moines — on the border of Illinois and Iowa — sits "Nature's Treatment of Illinois," a medical and recreational dispensary in Moline.

  • There, they see interest from curious Iowans who are traveling through the state and stop by.
  • Others are more intentional and go to seek relief from their ailments or ween off of pain relievers, Cody Franks, a manager at the store, told Axios.

Since recreational cannabis was legalized in the state, the store's popularity has spiked — prompting its owners to expand and create a waitlist.

  • "Especially in Iowa, I would imagine there's a need," Franks said.

Between the lines: Illinois is the only neighboring state that sells recreational marijuana, but Minnesota, Nebraska and Missouri have decriminalized simple possession.

The bottom line: With Iowa Republicans in charge, don't expect marijuana legalization to happen anytime soon.

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