Iowa Should Seek Federal Exemption for State Marijuana Laws

Another year, another flurry of legislative activity regarding the decriminalization of marijuana in Iowa.  The latest iteration introduced today in the Judiciary Committee is SF 406.

There is certainly plenty to like in the bill.  Simple possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana flower is legal.  Accommodation of up to an ounce without remuneration?  Legal.  Gatherings?  Again, legal.  Retail marijuana cultivation and sales permitted.

But the Iowa legislature continues to overlook one critical issue.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level.   So, the specter of federal prohibition and prosecution continues to be ever present.

Yes, there is a rider attached to omnibus spending legislation known as the Rohrbacher-Farr and Blumenauer Amendments that denies funds to the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute conduct that complies with medical and recreational cannabis programs at the state level.

SF 406 similarly prohibits law enforcement from expending resources for federal investigations if there is a belief that the activity is legal under state law.

However, this bill, like so many others before it, fails to include language that would harmonize federal and state law regarding marijuana.

Iowa should seek a federal exemption for state-authorized cannabis programs.  The framework already exists thanks to peyote.

No other state has applied this simple solution to such a thorny issue of federalism.

Iowa is well known for being first in the nation for many things.  The legislature should uphold this tradition by including language that requires the state seek a federal exemption if the bill moves forward.