Lawmaker Wants to Change Marijuana Laws - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Lawmaker Wants to Change Marijuana Laws

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By Alex Schuman

aschuman@myabc5.com

@alexschuman

On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington decided to loosen their laws on marijuana by allowing adults to have small amounts of the drug.

So, could Iowa be next?

One lawmaker, Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, wants to help give Iowa a little push in that direction in the next legislative session.

"It's not legalizing it by any means, but you're not gonna get thrown in jail," said Hunter.

The Des Moines Democrat plans to introduce two bills.  One legalizes medical marijuana and another changes the punishment for getting caught with weed to a fine instead of sending someone to jail, as long as they aren't selling the drug.

"[There are] people who are trying to get jobs in this state - trying to raise families, whose lives are literally ruined because they got caught smoking a joint," he said.

Hunter hopes easing up on marijuana smokers will save the state money by cutting down our inmate population. 

It's an idea that has support from some Iowans. 

"I think medical purposes are fine, but just for recreational purposes - I think we have enough recreational things," said Theresa Finnegan, a Des Moines resident.

Both Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, and House Republicans do not support any kind of marijuana legalization.  

"We should look at other, more pressing issues with regards to drugs like the rapid increase in the abuse of prescription drugs," said Tim Albrecht, Gov. Branstad's spokesperson.

Hunter does not expect to succeed in a Republican controlled House of Representatives.

"To even chase that rabbit down the hole doesn't make a whole lot of sense," said Albrecht.

But Hunter says he has to start somewhere.

"I think this maybe can get the ball rolling... and hopefully do some good maybe a year or two down the road," Hunter said.

Hunter plans to submit the bills before either at the end of this week, or next week.

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