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Demonstration goes to 'pot'

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN AND AARON WALKER | APRIL 21, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Young Americans for Liberty handed out pot brownies on Monday — but they aren’t the ones you’re thinking of.

April 20, or “4/20,” is a holiday of sorts for marijuana enthusiasts. Members of the libertarian group celebrated by holding signs that said “Free Pot Brownies” while giving away Cosmic Brownies out of a ceramic planting pot on the Pentacrest.

“We’re not promoting drug use, but we want to raise awareness,” said Matthew Evans, a UI senior and the president of the UI chapter. “[Today] is a big deal for students. Everyone knows what 4/20 is.”

UI freshman Sal Lopez said he thinks 4/20 is a perfect day to hold such a demonstration, and he thought the pun was a clever way to approach the topics associated with marijuana laws.

But despite the tasty treats and friendly exchanges among people, organizers said the event’s purpose was to bring light to a more serious issue. Today, 23 states and Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana. Four states, as well as D.C., have legalized recreational use.

Iowa’s lawmakers have been addressing the topic as well.  

Last week, a bill that would provide medical marijuana and reclassify the drug to a Schedule 2 narcotic passed in the Iowa Senate with support from only one Republican. It was then referred to the House Committee on Public Safety.

Although bill creator Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, has remained hopeful the legislation will gain legs in the House, the vice head of the Public Safety Committee, Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said he does not believe the bill will advance in the Legislature this year.

Despite his and many other House Republicans’ opposition to medical marijuana, he said assembling efforts, like Monday’s, are beneficial for the legislative process.

“I think discussions are always great. The more we air discussion, that’s what America is all about, the more we get an idea and opinion up in the air,” Holt said. “There’s just a lot more studying that needs to be done.”

Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines, said she believes the bill has some bipartisan support but was unsure of how much. 

She said marijuana gatherings are often seen as advocating recreational use, which can make a consensus on the bill unclear.

“[Republicans] are worried about a slippery slope onto legalizing marijuana, which may come, but that’s not what were focused on now,” Anderson said.  “We’re focused on getting the medical treatment that will help people. I think most important thing is to make sure they understand we’re not talking about recreational marijuana.”

The Young Americans for Liberty are big supporters of the controversial topic of marijuana legalization, believing it would have benefits both for citizens and for the government.  

Members said people should not be incarcerated for participating in nonviolent crimes, such as marijuana offenses.

UI senior Elizabeth Hayes, a member of the group, noted that the United States has 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the prison population.

“Considering the number of incarcerations due to marijuana and the current knowledge that it is not a significant health hazard, it should definitely be legalized,” Lopez said.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, nearly 50 percent of inmates were convicted of drug offenses.

Demonstration participants also said they believe legalization would result in a monetary gain for the United States, considering the possible profits from a tax on marijuana.

“If we were to tax it, we could make a lot of our money back,” Hayes said. “States that have decriminalized it, such as Washington and Colorado, are a step in the right direction.”


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