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Iowa legislator says state should regulate Marijuana like alcohol

This news story was published on February 4, 2019.
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DES MOINES – State Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City today announced he is preparing legislation to end marijuana prohibition in Iowa.

“Marijuana prohibition in Iowa has failed and we need a better approach,” Bolkcom said.  “The hundreds of millions spent on police, courts, and prisons have not made Iowans significantly safer or healthier than states that have ended marijuana prohibition.  In addition, while Black Iowans use marijuana at the same rate as White Iowans, they are four times more likely to be prosecuted for doing so.  This is one reason why Iowa has one of the nation’s most racially biased records when it comes to who we send to jail.”

Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City

Bolkcom said regulating marijuana like alcohol would also create new businesses, jobs and economic activity in the state of Iowa.

“The 80 million Americans living in the states that already regulate marijuana like alcohol live just like we do here in Iowa,” Bolkcom said.  “The only difference is that adults in those states can legally purchase and consume marijuana, a product that is less addictive and lethal than alcohol.”

Bolkcom said the challenges of regulating the use of marijuana are similar to those involved in regulating alcohol.

“Like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, using marijuana is harmful to the health of teenagers,” said Bolkcom.  “Teen use of marijuana must be aggressively discouraged and prevented, just as we do now with our anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol campaigns.  My legislation directs that taxes from the sale of legal marijuana will should be used to intensify and improve our anti-smoking and anti-drinking public health campaigns.”

Bolkcom said failure to end marijuana prohibition will cost Iowa jobs, new businesses and millions in lost tax dollars.  He pointed to the fact that other Midwestern states like Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois are moving towards legal marijuana regulation.

“Within two years, Illinois will have ended marijuana prohibition and adopted the regulation approach,” Bolkcom said. “As long as Iowa clings to the failed marijuana prohibition approach, we will lose jobs, dollars and people to Illinois and other states that adopt a fact-based approach to this issue.”

Top reasons to regulate marijuana in the same way that Iowa regulates alcohol

Marijuana prohibition hasn’t worked and hurts

taxpayers and everyday Iowans.

Marijuana prohibition is ineffective and expensive.

While law enforcement and the court system have done

their best to enforce prohibition, prohibition has not

made Iowans significantly safer or healthier.

Despite this, Iowa spends millions each year to arrest,

prosecute, jail, imprison and punish thousands of nonviolent

Iowans for possessing a product that is less

toxic, less addictive and less lethal than alcohol.

By legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana to

Iowa adults, we can refocus our criminal justice system

on serious crime and expand substance abuse

treatment programs. 


While regulating marijuana will bring its own set

of challenges, these challenges are less harmful to

Iowans than prohibition.

Iowa’s continued criminalization of marijuana imposes a

heavy burden on Iowa families in the form of lost jobs,

legal bills, jail time, broken families, violence and crime.

Despite this, marijuana remains available to almost

anyone that seeks it. Iowans know that it’s less toxic,

less addictive and less lethal than the alcohol available

at every Hy‐Vee, Casey’s and Kum and Go.

Iowa should not keep spending millions and millions

each year to arrest, prosecute, jail and punish

thousands of Iowans for possessing a substance less

harmful than legal alcohol.


Marijuana regulation hasn’t led to increased use

among teenagers

Like cigarette and alcohol consumption, teen use of

marijuana must be aggressively discouraged and


According to the most comprehensive government

surveys in each state, no state that regulates marijuana

for adults has seen an overall increase in teen marijuana

use. In fact, most of the data indicates slight decreases

in teen use.


Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol

to the consumer and to society

Adults should not be punished for making the safer

choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that is

what they prefer.

Researchers have consistently concluded that marijuana

is less toxic than alcohol, has less potential for

addiction, and is less likely to contribute to serious

medical problems.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

reports that there are more than 30,000 alcoholinduced

deaths per year, including more than 2,000

from acute overdose. It reports zero marijuana‐induced

deaths each year and there has never been a verified

marijuana overdose death.


Enforcement of marijuana laws is inherently

biased by race and income

The enforcement of marijuana prohibition is grossly

unequal. Low income and Black Iowans are

disproportionally arrested and prosecuted.

Black Iowans are four time more likely to be arrested

for marijuana even though Blacks and Whites both use

marijuana at similar rates. A law that is not enforced

equally is an unfair law and erodes trust in our justice



Regulating Marijuana Will Undermine the

Underground Market

Regulating marijuana like we regulate alcohol will

undermine Iowa’s illegal underground market for

marijuana. Without state regulation, Iowa’s illegal

underground‐market will continue to profitably operate

unregulated and untaxed in the shadows.

Regulation means control. Unlike licensed businesses,

illegal sellers operate anywhere and sell to minors.

Their product is not tested for purity, potency, or

contamination. In addition, illegal sellers often also sell

drugs that are much more addictive and harmful.

Regulating the marijuana market is objectively safer and

less harmful than allowing the illegal market to be



Ten states now regulate marijuana like alcohol

Ten states, the home to 80 million Americans now

regulate the use of marijuana by adults (21 years of

age). Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine,

Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont,

Washington and the District of Columbia now regulate

adult use of marijuana.


Regulated marijuana is coming to the Midwest

In November, voters in Michigan approved regulated

marijuana use for adults. The newly elected Governors

of both Minnesota and Illinois are calling on their states

to follow suit. Illinois is likely to replace marijuana

prohibition with marijuana regulation by the summer of



Regulating Marijuana will create new Iowa

businesses, jobs and tax revenue

Regulating marijuana in Iowa will create new businesses

and an estimated 4,000‐7,000 new Iowa jobs across the

state. In addition, estimates are that Iowa’s state and

local governments would gain between $40 to $70

million each year in new revenue.


Sixtytwo percent of Americans support regulating

marijuana like alcohol


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One Response to Iowa legislator says state should regulate Marijuana like alcohol

  1. Avatar

    Allen Reply Report comment

    February 5, 2019 at 8:25 am

    While I’m not condoning or disapproving it, it’s coming. Why does Iowa always seem to be the last holdout for change. There are millions to be made for the state coffers, and possibly new jobs created with it’s legalization and regulation. When money comes into the state that could possibly ease my tax burden, why not do it. Come on Iowa, do something, it’s coming, don’t be the caboose.