Decriminalize Davenport is a growing Facebook page devoted to decriminalizing cannabis in the city of Davenport (www.facebook.com/weeddport). It is largely inspired by the unique situation of the Quad Cities, a metropolitan area consisting of five cities. With three of the Quad Cities located in Illinois where cannabis will become fully legal on Jan. 1, and two of the Quad Cities located in Iowa where cannabis remains illegal, Decriminalize Davenport fills an essential role of keeping its community informed on how the two drastically different laws interact with each other, and advocating for civil rights.
In just three months, Decriminalize Davenport has already:
• pressed Davenport’s candidates in the Oct. 8 primary election to go on record about their views on cannabis legalization and decriminalization. It will continue this effort through the Nov. 5 general election
• earned news coverage about the issue of cannabis decriminalization
• called attention to the racial disparities of cannabis arrests
• provided links to pivotal information sources about the benefits of cannabis
Chris Rice, leader of Decriminalize Davenport, lays out the group’s mission and goals in this Q&A with Christine Hawes. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What key milestone have you already achieved as a group?
We have made the goal of making cannabis possession the lowest law enforcement priority a campaign issue in the upcoming elections for council and mayor.
What are your main goals for the coming year?
Our main goal is to make it so that cannabis possession is the lowest law enforcement priority.
What do you expect to happen with Iowa’s cannabis policies in coming years?
I expect that several cities will make cannabis possession the lowest law enforcement priority, which will pressure state lawmakers to make changes at the state level.
Why does this issue matter?
This is important because this is a free country, and in a free country you get to experience freedom. We should not be giving people a criminal record for adult consensual behavior that will be used as the basis of discrimination in housing, education, and employment for the rest of their lives and will put them into a permanent economic underclass. It is counter-productive to our economy and our society. If you don’t get caught, you may become president someday. If you do get caught, you will be denied jobs even plunging toilets. Your record won’t ever let you move on with your life and escape the “user” label. What are you supposed to do for a living when you are denied jobs because you have a record from years ago from using cannabis? Are you supposed to sell cannabis to survive? Arrests and convictions only help to trap people into that world.
What is the most effective step(s) the average Iowan could take to support your efforts and those of other pro-cannabis organizations?
Everyone that wants to see these laws change needs to engage with their elected leaders and candidates for office. Call them, write them a persuasive letter, “friend” or “like” them on social media, and engage with them. Go to the picnics they throw when they are running for office. Make sure they get asked the question at their forums. This is a popular idea now, and they need to hear that you support it. Keep bringing it up, and keep the pressure on. They know it is coming, and you need to make resisting the inevitable a liability. Let them know they don’t gain any votes, and only lose votes, by standing in the way of progress.