Iowa Democrats OK 'Legalizing All Drugs' In Official Party Platform

By Victoria Kim 06/29/16

Iowan drug policy activists claim the true intent of the party's now-infamous plank is to promote drug treatment over criminalizing addiction.  

Iowa Democrats OK 'Legalizing All Drugs' In Official Party Platform'

The official manifesto of the Iowa Democratic Party declares, “We support legalizing all drugs.” The simple, yet loaded, statement is plank No. 293 of the party’s updated platform.

The plank made it through the re-drafting of the platform at the Iowa Democratic Party state convention on June 18. And, according to the plank’s backers, it’s bringing to light the harmful impact of criminalizing drug use.

So how did drug legalization make it on the official party manifesto? According to platform committee chairman Mike Robinson, the plank’s supporters were well-organized and were able to win over a majority of the platform committee and state convention delegates.

Apparently, the platform committee ultimately had three choices: keep the phrasing as is, change “legalizing” to “decriminalizing,” or get rid of the plank altogether. (The committee wasn’t keen on using the word “decriminalizing” because it did not guarantee support for a harm reduction approach to addiction, according to the Des Moines Register.) 

According to supporters, the plank’s ostensibly radical phrasing failed to capture the true intent behind it, which was to promote a policy of treating, not criminalizing, drug addiction—to promote a policy of harm reduction, rather than a “drug free-for-all,” according to state delegate Ryan Rogers. “The reason to support this is to step by step reform drug laws and focus on treatment over punishment,” he told the Register.

“I think the most difficult thing is successfully formulating a policy that communicates that we are not endorsing or encouraging drug use,” Jonathan Green, a state delegate and central committee member, told the Register. “We just want to get it into the realm where it can be dealt with as a substance abuse or mental health issue rather than a criminal issue.” 

Rogers called the approach a “divestment strategy in the drug war” that would ideally disempower the illegal drug market and stop treating drug users like criminals. 

The following Monday after the state convention, Democratic legislative leaders reportedly made it clear that they do not necessarily endorse the controversial plank. “I’ve spent a good deal of my life as a substance abuse counselor, and I’m not going to support legalization of methamphetamine and illegal opioids,” said House Minority Leader Mark Smith. “I just can’t go that direction.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal noted that legalizing drugs is certainly not a position exclusive to the Democratic Party. In fact, he said that Republicans probably discuss it a lot more often. And drug legalization, or “de-funding the war on drugs,” is already a part of the national Libertarian Party’s official platform. 

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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