Weed, wacky tobaccie, dope, green … or maybe cannabis.
For many, legalized or decriminalized marijuana harkens images of 1993’s Richard Linklater classic “Dazed and Confused.” Or the devilish dancing and lewdness of 1936’s “Reefer Madness.”
Regardless of the generational images you may hold, legal access to marijuana is coming, and soon. Our side-by-side sister, Illinois, goes fully legal this coming January 1.
California and Colorado led the way, and now, Illinois is the 11th state to legalize marijuana. This means access to marijuana will change for many, and for the better of us all.
In contrast to Iowa and other states where medical cannabis laws favor only a few very specific diagnoses, Illinois will allow those who benefit from medical cannabis to grow and cultivate their own medicine without fear of state intervention.
Illinois’ new law also counters failed, historically conservative “war on drugs” policies that we now know solidified the “school to prison” pipeline for people of color, and from underserved populations.
These failed policies have cost people their literal and figurative lives. People are held back from productive employment or societal advancement because of ineffectively harsh drug policies. Illinois’ new law lets people look forward to clean criminal records and a new lease on life.
The end of overly punitive, biased and unscientific approaches to drug access and policy can change lives.
Illinois is also about to hit a financial windfall. The Chicago Tribune tells us Illinois is expected to draw $57 million dollars in revenue from legal cannabis in the next fiscal year. This can be aimed at prevention and treatment for real addictions, such as opiates and alcohol.
This money can also go to our schools, that we know have gone underfunded for decades. The possibilities of how we can make a better state for all people are truly endless — especially for a state that has continually been the punchline in bad jokes about state funding mishaps.
So, what does all of this have to do with us Iowans? We aren’t Illinois: we don’t have Chicago to draw tourists. We are Iowa: quiet, hardworking, and humble. We are also innovative, and have been at the burgeoning seams of freedom movements since we were founded.
Iowa can help ourselves, our loved ones, and our pocketbooks if we open our state to the potential of legal cannabis. I hope this column furthers this conversation. Here are some angles I’ll be exploring:
• Medical Cannabis: Questions can add up quickly about medical marijuana access when we talk not only legally, but also financially and logistically. Who does it help? Could that include you or someone you love? Do you know someone whose changed for the better because of access to medical cannabis?
Here’s the secret: you almost certainly do, Let’s meet them, welcome them, and let their stories be northern lights to guide us.
• Iowa agriculture: I’m a farm kid who grew up on a small family farm in a town of less than 1,000 outside of the Quad Cities. This upbringing showed me that Iowa Farmers are incredibly dedicated, hardworking and loving of our earth. We need to start talking more to these humans who actually put their hands on the earth and try to grow food for us all.
We need to greet them, honor them and open conversations about Iowa, our land, our soil, our water, our family farms and how we save this culture of creation. We need to remember what we once knew, how Iowa used to be home to over 90 crops including the industrial grade Hemp that is becoming ever more useful in our world.
We know that climate change is changing our earth, and that we need active steps to save what we have. The lost knowledge of Hemp production can help.
• Tourism: Right now, if you google “marijuana tourism,” you’ll find entire travel companies that arrange tours of states with open access to marijuana. Imagine if, along with everything else Iowa has to offer, we could also invite marijuana imbibers to come, visit, explore and spend their money. Cannabis could bring much needed tourism dollars to our doorsteps.
Right now, we face the opposite. Here on the eastern side of Iowa, with Illinois a quick ride across the river, cannabis tourism dollars that may otherwise have made it to downtown Davenport or even Iowa City are headed to Illinois.
Whether you like it or not, the tides are turning on cannabis, my friends. The Mississippi is about to get a lot more “green,” and for Iowa, the question is, are we riding the wave or missing the boat? Let’s talk about it.