Poll: Iowans evenly split on marijuana legalization

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Cannabis bud. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Iowans are evenly split on legalizing recreational marijuana, according to a new poll published by the Des Moines Register. The Iowa Poll found 48 percent of respondents favored legalization, 48 percent opposed it and 4 percent were unsure.

This is a significant change from the results of the last Iowa Poll on the topic. In January 2018, only 38 percent of respondents were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana and 58 percent against it.

The poll found the strongest support for legalization among those under 35, with 70 percent favoring it. The least support was among those 55 and older; only 32 percent in that age group supported legalization. Slightly less than half of the respondents — 47 percent — between 35 and 54 years old were in favor of legalization.

State Sen. Joe Bolkom plans to introduce a bill this year that would legalize recreational marijuana in Iowa, and regulate it in the same way alcohol is regulated.

“It’s time to face facts. In Iowa, marijuana is available to about anyone that seeks it,” the Iowa City Democrat said in a letter published by Little Village. “Iowans objectively know that it’s less toxic, less addictive and less lethal than the alcohol that is available at every Hy-Vee, Casey’s and Kum and Go.”

“Iowa’s continued prohibition of marijuana imposes a heavy burden on Iowa families in the form of lost jobs, legal bills, jail time, broken families, violence and crime,” Bolkom said. “Why should we 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?”

The Republicans who control both houses of the Iowa legislature have not shown an interest in legalization, although Sen. Brad Zaun of Urbandale, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has introduced a bill that would make the first offense for possession of five grams or less of marijuana punishable by no more than 30 days in jail and/or a fine of between $65 and $625. Currently, possession of five grams or less is a serious misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Zaun introduced the same bill during the last legislative session. The Senate passed the bill, but it died in the House.

Zaun is opposed to legalizing marijuana, and so is Gov. Kim Reynolds.

During the second debate in last year’s governor’s race, Reynolds was asked if she would support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Her response was, “No.”

The Feb. 10-13 poll was conducted for the Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co., who surveyed 803 Iowans. It has margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, according to the polling company.

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