The letter below is from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) to a Vote Hemp supporter in reply to a letter asking him to introduce a Senate version of H.R. 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
A note for the reader: Sen. Charles Grassley is the co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. Also, hemp fibers don't contain THC and are exempt from the definition of marihuana in the Controlled Substances Act.
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July 17, 2009
Thank you for contacting me regarding your support for H.R. 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. As your Senator, it is important for me to hear from all Iowans on issues that are important to you. Please accept my apology for the delay in this response.
Representative Ron Paul introduced H.R. 1866 on April 2, 2009. His bill would change the defmition of marijuana to exclude hemp and thus allow for the production of hemp for agricultural purposes. Currently, H.R. 1866 is being considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
Over the years, many people have expressed the view that marijuana should be legalized for recreational, medical, and agricultural purposes. However, I disagree with this view. Marijuana is illegal because it is dangerous. When you smoke marijuana, or use any other drug, it changes your brain. It changes the way you think, your ability to learn, and how well you can remember. Making marijuana a legal drug will not change any of this. The laws granting the federal government the authority over the movement and sale of these dangerous substances is well established and has been thoroughly reviewed by the courts.
Cannabis sativa is a tall, Asian herb known also as hemp, and best known for its psychoactive properties. The name "hemp" is also used to refer to a wide variety of fiber-bearing plants. Other plants that are part of the hemp family include Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea), a fiber plant harvested in India and other parties of Asia. Abaca or Manila hemp (Musa textilis) grown in the Philippines and other Pacific Islands; Mauritius hemp (Furcraea gigantean) grown in Africa; New Zealand hemp (Phormium tenax); India hemp (Corchorus capsularis), also known as "jute;" various forms of sisal (Agave sisalana) grown in Africa and the West Indies; and Cuban or Mexican sisal (Agave fourcroydes). Today, all of these fibers are used primarily in the manufacturing of rope and twine.
While the various forms of hemp are still being grown and used in less developed countries, except as a novelty item, hemp, for anything other than garden twine or burlap, cannot compete. Other than as a psychotropic drug, hemp has not proved to be a viable crop in any nation where its production is legal. And other than the profits that could be easily made by selling true hemp to those wanting to use marijuana to get high, no evidence exists that legalizing marijuana will provide any growth to the legitimate economy. It should be noted that true hemp (Cannabis sativa) is the only type of hemp fibers that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Due to the greater potential for abuse when compared to the possible uses and benefits, I cannot favor promoting cannabis sativa as a legitimate alternative crop. It seems that the main reason hemp is being put forward as a legitimate crop is to promote the legalization of marijuana. That is something I cannot support.
Many Iowans have also compared the failure of alcohol prohibition to marijuana prohibition today. While it is true that alcohol prohibition failed, alcohol is still responsible for over 100,000 premature deaths per year. Alcohol causes problems when people drink too much, but one drink will not affect the typical adult. Alcohol is legal and easily accessible, and I would have to agree with the observation that these costs are higher than the present costs of marijuana use. But this is true because alcohol is legal, readily available and widely accepted-not because marijuana is less dangerous. I disagree with any assumption that legalizing marijuana will not increase its use and therefore not increase the associated costs, or that crime would be reduced if marijuana were legalized. The facts just do not support these assumptions.
Some have expressed that we should regulate marijuana in similar vein as we do alcohol and tobacco. While it is true that tobacco, like alcohol, is legal, it is still responsible for even more premature deaths per year, staggering associated health care and other allied-costs. tobacco companies have agreed to pay millions, and possibly billions of dollars because they have lied to the public about the harm their products cause. Yet the level of cancer causing carcinogens found in a cigarette is less than that found in a marijuana cigarette.
Others have argued that the legal system would be less burdened if marijuana was legalized. However, the idea that our prisons are filled with marijuana users is inaccurate. The overwhelming majority of federal and state inmates are in jail for repeat or violent crimes. Fewer than 2 percent of state inmates are in prison for first-time, non-violent drug offenses. Over 90 percent of inmates are in jail for violent and repeat offenses. Of those in jail for drug offenses, the vast majority have been convicted for drug trafficking.
While the battle against illegal drugs is a battle that may never end, I strongly believe that this is a battle we must continue to fight. The use of drugs has been recorded since the beginning of history. Absolute success isn't necessary to justify our efforts to curb the harm caused by illegal drugs. The dramatic increase in crime in this country coincides almost exactly with years in which we virtually stopped enforcing our drug laws, years in which drug use soared. As we have gotten tougher on drugs, crime rates have fallen and so has drug use. Interestingly, as we have seen the anti-drug message diminish, we have seen a corresponding increase in teenage drug use along with corresponding increases in violent crimes among teenagers. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s when we saw the affects of the legalization of drugs. The results were disastrous for individuals and society.
Thank you again for contacting me. I hope you found this information helpful. Please keep in touch.
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator