Legalize (all of) it! The surprising position on drugs in the platform of the Iowa Democratic Party (Updated)

Illustration by Jordan Sellergren

Update: Following the original publication of this story, Mike Robinson, the platform committee chair of the 2016 Iowa Democratic Party Convention, replied to Little Village’s questions. The story has been updated to included Robinson’s answers.

It’s no longer surprising when a politician comes out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, but it is a little surprising that the official position of the Iowa Democratic Party is all drugs should be legalized. At least that the party’s official position on paper — no leading Iowa Democrat has actually endorsed taking that step.

The call to legalize all drugs is plank number 293 in the current Iowa Democratic Party Platform, which was adopted at the 2016 state party convention. “[We support] legalizing all drugs,” is the entire text of the plank, which is in the criminal justice section of the platform. It immediately follows a similar plank that calls for “legalizing cannabis/hemp.”

Little Village emailed the Iowa Democratic Party about the legalize-it-all plank. Asked if this was the first time the Democratic platform included such a plank, Tess Seger, the state party’s communication director, replied, “As far as we know, yes.”

Seger said she wasn’t acquainted with the decisions that led to the inclusion of the plank, and directed questions about the process to Mike Robinson, the chair of the 2016 platform committee.

“They [supporters of the legalize-it-all plank] had the majority at the state convention that year, and the majority rules,” Robinson told Little Village in a phone interview. “I would have like to have seen a minority report attached to that plank, because the whole room wasn’t for that, and certainly the whole party isn’t for that.”

“There’s a little bit of strategy that goes on in conventions,” Robinson explained. “The vote [on the platform] was going late into the evening and early morning hours. By the time the plank was going to be voted on, fatigue had set in and a lot of the delegates had left. It would have been interesting to see if it would have passed if that vote had been earlier in the evening.”

Plank 293 immediately attracted national attention Robinson recalled.

“I had The Washington Post on me the next day, asking, ‘What’s going on in Iowa?’” he said. “It’s one of those things that is easily misconstrued. The intentions are good: trying to cut down on incarcerations for drug-related crimes, and get people back out to be productive citizens again.”

“The law, as it is now, is designed to punish people for having a drug habit, instead of treating the problem.”

With 563 planks, the Iowa Democrat’s platform goes into much greater detail on issues than the platform of the state’s Republican and Libertarian parties. Neither of those parties make the sort of blunt statement on legalization in their platforms the Democrats do. According to one of the 50 planks in the 2016 Iowa Republican platform, the party supports, “legalizing cannabis oil for medical use and industrial hemp for commercial use.” But that’s all.

The Libertarian Party of Iowa’s platform is barely a page long, and contains some nonspecific language about ending the “War on Drugs.”

Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.

The parties adopt a new platform every two years at their state party conventions. Asked if the Democrats will retain plank 293, Robinson replied, “The platform process is a very small ‘d’ democratic process. Everyone gets to a vote, everyone gets a say and can participate in the debates.”

“It’ll be up to the majority what goes into the platform.”


  1. Hi. I actually have the state convention platform book. I wrote platform on medicinal Cannabis. We supported whole plant medicine. Not oil only.
    We supported legalize all drugs as a harm reduction measure and to end the drug cartels selling illegal and dangerous product on the streets to decrease black markets in Iowa. Regulated access to drugs decreases crime and gives addicts treatment options. This was widely reported in the Des Moines Register.
    Shelly Servadio RN
    Chair Iowa Democratic Veterans Caucus
    State Central Committee

  2. I totally agree with this premise. The prohibition laws certainly are not working..not keeping people from using them. It keeps the jails and prisons full, but at what cost to our families, our communities? We need to try another approach.

  3. I support legalize all drugs. The harms of drugs are often exaggerated because originally, drug laws were racist laws made because drugs caused violence in non-whites. If they caused violence, then there was an excuse for the violence required in police intervention. However, with actual science and not bigotry, getting police involved is just harassment of the public by a higher power, and the money the small percentage makes is like cheating on of capitalism. I’d say recommending therapy as a voluntary action is the only civilized thing to do to a problematic drug user, of which they are a rarity, while getting police involved is uncivilized and has caused violence all over the world. Making any drug that people use recreationally illegal is insane and barbaric. Since recreational and medicinal drug use is a regular and accepted part of our culture there is no rational argument for drug illegality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.


Enjoy a tasting and drinks from the best chefs the area has to offer!

Presented by

Join us Saturday, February 15, 6 p.m.
@ Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.



America’s intimate festival experience featuring cutting-edge music, the Midwest’s premier indie book fair, and readings and community happenings across downtown Iowa City.