Decriminalizing marijuana was the subject of discussion on Thursday when a task force met virtually to thrash out the issue. It was decided that the task force would submit their recommendation to the Des Moines City Council by Monday. If approved, a six-person team would be constituted to create a framework for implementation of revised guidelines that would report back to the Council by October 1.
The issue of decriminalizing marijuana was not a stand-alone topic for consideration. It was brought up as a part of the discussions on the city’s proposed ban on racial profiling. Community organizations and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement have suggested that marijuana possession should be a low priority for law enforcement agencies. It is because Black people are more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts for possession, even though the usage rate in the two might be the same.
This is borne out by the ACLU report of 2020, which states that it is seven times more possible for a Black Iowan to be arrested than a white Iowan for possessing marijuana. Once the task force recommendations take this factor into account and suitable instructions are given to the police, this disparity will be narrowed. Hence, the ACLU is pressing for the decriminalization of marijuana.
There is a certain limit on the Council’s effort to decriminalize marijuana. It cannot legalize marijuana as it would go against existing state and federal laws. At most, it can tell the police to make arrests for marijuana possession a low priority issue.
Even then, it would be a small but positive step towards bringing racial equality and change in mindsets. Council member Josh Mandelbaum says,
He elaborates further that the city will act even if the move to decriminalize the drug is not passed by the Iowa legislature.