Both stop in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, but messages miles apart

CEDAR RAPIDS — One bagged popcorn and scooped ice cream. The other advocated for legalizing marijuana.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Cathy Glasson both were in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, but their messages were miles apart.

Reynolds, who is unopposed for the GOP nomination, focused on recognition from “outside validators that Iowa is a great place to invest and locate and grow a company.” She was referring to U.S. News & World Report recently rating Iowa the No. 1 state in the nation.

Glasson, who faces four other Democrats in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, focused on what Iowa needs to fix.

One solution, she said, would be to legalize marijuana for personal use by Iowans 21 and older. She’s calling for “smart legalization” — well-regulated, safe and overseen by the state.

“We have to find creative ways to generate revenue for the things we value, which are public education, health care, cleaning up water, ensuring the state runs effectively for the people of Iowa,” Glasson said at her Cedar Rapids headquarters.

Oregon, which has about 1 million more residents than Iowa and a good history of regulation and enforcement, generated $85 million in revenue last year from taxing marijuana sales that has been invested in education, health care, including mental health, and drug addiction programs, Glasson said.

“It’s a huge issue among voters. I think it will change things,” she said.

Glasson also supports a major expansion of Iowa’s medical cannabis program. More than 12,000 Iowans have health conditions that could benefit from expanding the state’s medical cannabis program, she said.

Glasson, an intensive care nurse, credited the Legislature with making a “good start” on making medical cannabis available to limited number of Iowans. However, too many conditions are excluded.

“It’s time to expand the number of health conditions covered by the program and allow doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to approve medical cannabis for treatment of any health condition that they believe it would help alleviate,” she said.

Also, research suggests medical cannabis can be used to help address the opioid crisis by replacing prescription opiates for pain management and assisting in treatment of patients struggling with opioid addiction.

“People die from opioids, and it’s extremely addictive,” Glasson said. “People don’t die from marijuana. The evidence is clear, marijuana is not addictive and it’s not a gateway drug to opioids or narcotics. Those are myths.”

Reynolds didn’t address medical cannabis, but she did respond to criticism from Glasson and the other Democratic candidates of her administration.

“I’m proud of what we’re doing,” she said after bagging popcorn and scooping ice cream at the Great American Popcorn Company in the NewBo District. That included her Future Ready Iowa workforce development program, mental health care reform and the $2.86 billion income tax cut she signed Wednesday.

“As I talk to Iowans, I see a lot of heads going like this,” Reynolds said, bobbing her head. “I just had someone thank me for the tax cut a minute ago. It really is going to make a difference. We’ve got great things going on. We’ve got a great story to tell. I’m anxious to get out there and talk to Iowans about it.”

Great American Popcorn Company owner Robyn Rieckhoff, also the executive director of the Cedar Rapids Freedom Fest, presented the governor with a Freedom Fest button before Reynolds donned a company T-shirt and baseball cap.

“You rock it,” Rieckhoff told her.

The visit was a “wonderful opportunity to showcase another small business in Iowa,” Reynolds said. “Who doesn’t like popcorn and ice cream? It was a lot of fun to be back there and serve and to say thanks.”

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