Iowans strongly favor medical weed, but like others in the Upper Midwest, they’re not so keen on making the drug available to everyone.
A poll released March 17 shows 87 percent of the state’s residents want to make MMJ legal, even if that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. That result is close to the national average in recent polls.
Yet just 44 percent of Iowans want to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes, a good 10 points below the national average. That’s in line with recent polling out of neighboring Minnesota, where only a third of voters back full legalization.
The reason? It’s unclear, but it could be a combination of Midwestern social conservatism and an aging population. Iowa has a median age of 38.1, more than a year older than the national median. Nearly 15 percent of the population is over the age of 65.
That doesn’t make Iowa one of the oldest states in the country, but it does help explain why legalization is so unpopular there while people seem to want it everywhere else.
In fact, age is the single most important factor in the poll. Respondents aged 18 to 29 years old supported legalization by 62 percent, while older respondents were heavily against it.
What’s more, the Upper Midwest is home to the Hazelden Clinic and much of the rest of the rehab industry. They don’t generally agitate in the political sphere, but they still have substantial influence on drug policy in the region and contribute to the local attitude that pot is “bad.”
Backing for MMJ, however, is strong across the board. Just 17 percent of poll respondents oppose it, and at least 68 percent of every category – men, women, Democrats, Republicans, old, and young – want to see it happen.
They may have to wait a while. Though there have been discussions about medical weed in Iowa, there is little to no political impetus to get it done. Efforts to move forward this year fell flat. Leaders from both parties say more research and education is needed.
Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, opposes MMJ, though he said he sympathizes with patients and their families. Branstad said state officials must be wary of “unintended consequences.”
If Iowa seems particularly mired in the past on public policy, it may be because of the way Iowans view the drug itself. Almost half, 49 percent, said they think it’s as dangerous as alcohol, while 16 percent said it’s more dangerous and 31 percent said it’s less dangerous.“I think we have to be careful about drafting our laws just for a few people that have a particular problem or ailment,” he said.
Just 36 percent of the state’s adult residents admitted to having smoked dope. Some respondents probably answered dishonestly, though, as that number is several points below the national average.