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Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Des Moines Register. Sept. 26, 2021. Editorial: We’ve seen enough.

Des Moines Register. Sept. 26, 2021.

Editorial: We’ve seen enough. It’s time for Iowa to legalize marijuana

Iowa, or at least its policymakers, has been resolutely reticent to join the bandwagon of states and countries permitting medical and then recreational marijuana use.

Relative to even other states where recreational use remains illegal, our medical cannabidiol program can be used only in narrow circumstances, and participation requires a lot of paperwork. Proposals to change state law or change local priorities die quick deaths.

Arguments for the status quo have merit, and this board has counseled caution previously, but it’s time to act. We’ve long known about injustices in the practice of enforcing marijuana laws. And now we’ve seen the manageable experiences of more aggressive jurisdictions.

Iowa should swiftly permit wider medicinal and recreational use — with reasonable restrictions such as barring purchase and use by minors.

Recent reporting by Reader’s Watchdog Lee Rood illustrates how dated the current system can be. An Illinois shop director just across the Mississippi River told Rood that his frequent Iowa visitors include a number of older adults seeking relief from medical problems.

“Some want to buy it here and try it before they go through the hassle of trying to get it in Iowa,” said Jeff Soenksen of The Dispensary in East Dubuque.

Public opinion has moved quickly, here and nationally. Washington and Colorado made the first moves in 2012. In 2014, 70% of Iowans opposed legal recreational use. Less than a decade later, nearly 20 states have some legal pot, and a majority of Iowans are OK with it, too.

And Iowans’ actions back up poll respondents’ answers: Many of Iowa’s “marijuana tourists” invest time and money in travel from central Iowa, not just from border areas, to states with more relaxed policies. Former Republican Congressman Greg Ganske advocates for legalization in these pages today.

Iowans and their local and state elected officials should pressure Congress to relax federal law on marijuana. But just as other states have shown, there’s plenty Iowa can do on its own to make marijuana laws fairer and more sensible.

The criminal justice system disproportionately punishes Black Iowans more than others for marijuana. This has been established over and over. It was an impetus for Des Moines’ failed effort last year to make enforcement the lowest priority for the police. This entrenched problem is enough independently to prompt serious consideration of a different approach to addressing dangers posed by drug use. It’s more than enough to tip the scales in light of other developments.

State lawmakers have cited reasonable concerns about impaired driving. But states that allow widespread use have hardly experienced a catastrophe on the roads, and advocacy and criminal laws have long been considered the appropriate course for discouraging drunken driving.

Speaking of criminal laws (and absurdities): If lawmakers can’t bring themselves to immediately rip off the Band-Aid on pot prohibition, they ought to at least revise the law that allows a conviction for impaired driving if any evidence of marijuana is found in a driver’s body. It might have been consumed days or weeks earlier. The driver might not have been impaired. Neither is a defense. That has to change.

So does the medical marijuana program, as we’ve said for years. About 5,000 Iowans are enrolled and able to travel to one of five dispensaries to get cannabidiol with no more than 3% THC to treat one of 14 mostly strictly defined ailments. All of those numbers are too small. Once again, if lawmakers insist on an intermediate step before decriminalization or legalization, then they should work with the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board to make the program more useful to more Iowans.

But a multi-step approach is not necessary. Iowa can be more like Colorado, or Illinois, and the sky will not fall. Instead, more Iowans could have an easier time getting therapeutic pain treatment. Police could have more time for other work and one fewer excuse for unnecessary traffic stops and arrests. And state leaders would show that they can respond to evidence and public opinion on a complicated issue and move the state in the right direction.

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Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Sept. 22, 2021.

Editorial: End of greyhound racing end of an era

Though few people were surprised by the news that greyhound racing in Dubuque will end next year, it’s notable to give credit to this industry that has played a unique role in the community’s history.

Iowa Greyhound Park General Manager and Director of Racing Brian Carpenter told the Telegraph Herald last week that the 2022 season will be the park’s last, calling the decision to cease racing “a done deal.” The shortage of available greyhounds is among the chief reasons for the end of Iowa Greyhound Park and the collapse of the racing industry as a whole.

That’s a far different picture than the one greyhound racing created in Dubuque in the 1980s.

Forty years ago, when the Dubuque economy was struggling mightily and the city was experiencing the highest unemployment in the nation, a plan emerged that would bring hope, excitement, jobs and visitors to the community. Dubuque went to the dogs. Citizens voted to tax themselves, and some civic leaders even took out second mortgages, so this community could secure a license for parimutuel greyhound racing.

Most people around here know what happened next.

Opened in June 1985, the city-owned Dubuque Greyhound Park, operated by the nonprofit Dubuque Racing Association, became a key element in the community’s turnaround. Its success meant more than money raised for local charities, new jobs and a boost for ancillary businesses. The track’s success reached into the hearts and minds of this community. During the dark days of the mid-1980s, Dubuque Greyhound Park became a shining light, a confidence-building beacon signaling that, working together, Dubuquers could recover from adversity.

And to think so much of this success was due to parimutuel greyhound racing.

Today, however, the story is quite different. The ledger shows that parimutuel racing, which once provided a financial and psychological boost for this community, became a fiscal drain for this community. After years of parimutuel greyhound racing being a money-losing proposition, Dubuque’s Mystique Casino & Resort — now Q Casino and Hotel — and the casino in Council Bluffs reached a settlement allowing the casinos to sever ties with the greyhound industry in 2014.

As part of this deal, Council Bluffs agreed to pay an annual $4.6 million subsidy to Iowa Greyhound Park through 2022, while Q Casino agreed to pay a yearly subsidy of $500,000 through 2021.

It was those subsidies that allowed the park to stay in the black thus far. But greyhound racing never managed to make it on its own.

As we mark the waning days of greyhound racing in Dubuque, we acknowledge that its time has come, but also that it was parimutuel greyhound racing that helped fuel Dubuque’s recovery in the 1980s.

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Fort Dodge Messenger. Sept. 22, 2021.

Editorial: Soybeans are big business in Iowa

Nobody knows exactly how long humans have cultivated the soybean, but agricultural historians are quite certain its domestication as a crop in China dates back three millennia. There are actually Chinese records documenting soybean growth as far back as the 11th century. There is some disagreement about who first introduced soybeans into North America, but researchers seem to agree that by the 1760s soybean seed had reached Georgia.

Whatever the origin, few would dispute that in the 21st century soybean cultivation is important to the world as a food source and a great deal more. Food, health products, biodiesel and printer ink are among the more important uses of this versatile bean. As just one example, The Messenger uses color soy ink to print every issue.

Iowa leads the nation in soybean production. The Iowa Soybean Association estimates that soybean farmers contribute about $9 billion to the Hawkeye State’s economy each year.

The sale of soybeans grown in Iowa to foreign clients is a major positive contribution by our state to the U.S. trade picture. In that regard, Iowa’s commercial relationship with China is a huge asset. China imports more Iowa soybeans than all other countries combined. Nearly one out of every five people who inhabit this planet lives in China. The long-term importance of selling soybeans to that market is enormous.

Iowa’s renewable fuels industry has great potential. Soybean farmers are of vital importance to the biodiesel segment of that evolving economic sector. Iowa’s status as a leader in soybean growth has positioned it to be at the very heart of biodiesel production. According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Iowa manufactures about 12 percent of the nation’s biodiesel and is poised to become an even more significant factor in that industry.

Soybeans and the farmers who grow them are key components of Iowa’s economic game plan for 21st-century prosperity.

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The Associated Press