Iowa NORML holds Iowa City’s first outreach meeting

Iowa NORML holds Iowa City’s first outreach meeting

Andy Davis, aldavis@press-citizen.com 9:11 p.m. CST January 25, 2015

On Sunday the Iowa chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, met with about 25 Iowa City community members for its first community and membership meeting in the area at the Iowa City Public Library.

Crystal Brunt, director of communication for Iowa NORML, said the meeting was intended as a way for the organization and its members to introduce themselves to the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids communities and to see if there is an interest in creating satellite chapters in those areas.

“We’re moving on forming a hemp bill, and we’re trying for full-out legalization,” Brunt said. “What we’re trying to do here today is to reach out to people, inform them and spur activity.”

Members of the Des Moines-based Iowa NORML spoke to the community during the meeting about the bill that was signed into law last year by Gov. Terry Branstad that legalized the possession and use of marijuana oil, or cannabidiol, for patients with intractable epilepsy. The families who lobbied for that law, however, have said the law is basically useless because it provides no legal means to obtain the marijuana extract.

“The war on drugs has been an abysmal failure. It rips apart families and destroys young peoples’ lives over a matter of personal choice,” Brunt said. “We’re pushing for more sensible policy that would treat possession and use as a heath issue, not a criminal issue.”

Carl Olsen, an advocate for marijuana legalization, spoke Sunday about Senate Study Bill 1005, a bill intended to classify marijuana as a Schedule II drug like morphine and cocaine, which have some medical value. Olsen said during his presentation Sunday that the bill also aims to legalize small amounts of cannabis, but that the focus of this proposed bill should be only the reclassification of marijuana.

“That bill was scheduled for a hearing Tuesday afternoon, but the hearing was canceled, so there is no future date set for that hearing,” Olsen said. “I don’t know how decriminalization got into that bill, I think they should have been filed separately.”

Olsen said another bill, HF 60, was also filed and calls only for the decriminalization of possession of 42.5 grams of marijuana and reduction of the first punishment to a $500 fine.

State Sens. Bob Dvorsky and Kevin Kinney attended the meeting.

“My political advice would be all your emphasis should be on (Senate Study Bill 1005) to get that changed to try and move forward with what we actually got passed last time,” Dvorsky said. “I’m not sure why decriminalization is in there either. I think you need a clean bill that just moves it from Schedule I to Schedule II, and that’s part of the holdup, I think, in trying to get something done.”

Visitors to the meeting Sunday were given informational handouts including a list of members of the Iowa House of Representatives and State Senate and their email addresses and were encouraged to voice their support. Visitors were also given the opportunity to become members of Iowa NORML.

Reach Andy Davis at 319-887-5404 or at aldavis@press-citizen.com, and follow him on Twitter at @BylineAndyDavis.