Come to Iowa & Fight to Win the Caucus: Leave Your Cannabis at Home.
It’s now the final stretch of the Iowa Caucus. In what will feel like 10 very long days the good people of Iowa will be the first to weigh in on their selection for the next Democratic party nominee. Every campaign out here is counting on volunteers to come out knocking doors, shepherding caucus attendees to where they need to be, and acting as observers to history.
I have been out in Iowa for about 2 weeks now observing this piece of history throughout the state. Attitudes in the community about cannabis even in left politics are rather restrained with government officials looking to see what really happens in places where it is now legal before offering any on the record position.
For many of us engaged in politics on the left, we take our rights as responsible adult cannabis users in our home states for granted. The world has changed drastically the last ten years in most of the country where you no longer risk your personal freedom to hold marijuana products or consume them. This change has not yet come to Iowa.
The penalties for your responsible adult possession are steep in Iowa. NORML has prepared a spreadsheet outlining these penalties. The law offers broad interpretations of what possession with the intent to distribute may be construed. On the ground, individuals have shared with me that passing around edibles in the past has resulted in charges of distribution. Additional charges exist for possession within 1,000 feet of school, public park, or public bus. Paraphernalia related to marijuana is also subject to a $1,000 fine.
Iowa remains one of the few places in the country where CBD is not sold at retail legally and requires a doctor’s note for a qualifying condition.
In terms of social justice Iowa furthermore remains a mandatory minimum sentencing state tying the hands of judges as to penalties levied upon defendants. Don’t expect to fight drug charges from out of state.
Keep in mind if you are coming out to Iowa to help a campaign; you are a reflection of that campaign. While where you are from smoking a doobie before heading out to canvass is as American as apple pie, in Iowa politics this is likely to label you a criminal in the mind of voters in communities that do not discuss cannabis in polite company. Your job lobbying for a candidate is to meet voters where they are today, move them to why they should be part of the bigger picture of your candidate, not convert them to an entirely new way of life.
This is also politics where the headlines and cheap shots matter with few reading past the headlines. So don’t go to the park to smoke in a group wearing campaign shirts. This is not the time or the place to fight the cannabis civil rights battle when you have a caucus to win. Risk of arrest or citations that will get into the public record are very real. The story written by a reporter seeking their local headline will be something along the lines of “massive criminal activity uncovered at Candidate Campaign HQ” painting it in the worst possible light possible. Entirely expect other campaigns to call you in. Anything to draw attention from your number one job of moving voters is just among the dirty tricks we have every caucus season.
So come to Iowa. Lend your labor. Share your love. Keep your Marijuana low key until the caucus has ended. Be a positive force for the change you want to see in the world.
Speak truth to power in every forum that you can. Be the shining example of what responsible adult consumers of cannabis can do. But most of all. Focus on winning. Remind the candidate that you support to keep that seat at the table for your causes.
If you want to help a campaign during the early caucus period don’t forget about Nevada. There are no legal penalties for adult use and you will enjoy among the best recreational marijuana marketplaces in the entire world. [EDITOR's NOTE: She means Vegas has the best recreational marketplace until Maine comes online. ;-) ]
Christine Kramar is a management, broadcast, and political professional serving as a senior lobbyist for NORML Las Vegas, Nevada. She is the proud sponsor and author of the Kramar Amendment which added descheduling Marijuana to the Democratic National Committee platform in 2016.