Contributed by Katie Foley
As I've previously mentioned, I'm on more political email lists than I can count. Somehow I've ended up on Mr. Keith Ellison's. Today I received an email inviting me to take a survey to tell Keith what issues are important to me. At the end they provide an email address in case "our" issue was not included in the survey. In response I sent the following email:
Dear Mr. Ellison (or at least his campaign committee),
I am writing to tell you that you missed a very important issue in the survey.
I am talking, of course, about getting marijuana reclassified as a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act, telling the DEA and other federal agencies to stop interfering with medical marijuana laws in states that have them, and to allow for the production of industrialized hemp as a viable and cost-efficient alternative to many of the current organic products used in our society today.
First I'll address the issue of rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance. One of the favorite reasons cited by "the government" for not approving medical marijuana is that there is insufficient scientific evidence indicating the medicinal value of cannabis. Yet, every time someone approaches the FDA and DEA to conduct a study they are denied the ability to do so because of the fact that marijuana is a Schedule I substance. This is ridiculous and counter-productive. It's like telling a child that they can't watch TV until they read a book about fairies, then making sure there are no books about fairies available for the child to read. It's both counter-productive and stupid and its time for marijuana to stop occupying the same schedule as heroin and PCP. While I'm all for legalizing and taxing this estimated $18 Billion (yes, with a "b") industry, I'd settle for rescheduling it so that real, up-to-date scientific studies can be conducted.
Secondly, allowing for the growth of industrial hemp for oil, food products, textiles, paper, etc. would do many things. For starters it would relieve the ecological disasters that have resulted and continue to result from deforestation. A 1916 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that one acre of hemp could yield as much pulp for paper as 4 acres of trees, and hemp grows faster and can be harvested more often than trees. Not only can hemp be used for paper, it can also be used to develop building materials. Hemp fiber is more ecologically and economically viable than cotton fiber and the oil from hemp can be used for everything from fuel to cooking. Yet, even though smoking an entire field of hemp will give you naught more than a headache and sore lungs, the DEA consistently considers hemp and it's psychoactive cousin marijuana as the same plant. This is a product that, instead of importing from places like China and Russia, could help get family farms up and running again in the face of agribusiness.
I once heard Mr. Ellison say that he was all for "states rights," yet when I asked him whether the federal government should allow states to decide their own marijuana and hemp policies he waffled. In my experience Mr. Ellison is both an excellent speaker and an excellent waffler. I haven't ever heard him say anything new or profound, I never hear stories on MPR about Mr. Ellison being a man of the people, who boldly stands up to conservative opposition. I actually am not sure I've ever gotten a straight answer from him on anything. Mr. Ellison is fluent in politi-speech. Lucky for him he represents a "safe" district and there are no liberals willing and/or able to rise up and challenge him for the DFL endorsement. That doesn't mean he should fall back on his laurels, knowing that he doesn't have to talk straight because he's not going to have any real challenger.
44% of Americans favor a blanket legalization of marijuana (78% of self-described "liberals") and 50% of Americans support legalizing it for medical use. The trend is changing, with more people in support of legalization in one form or the other, and yet the government and the elected officials that occupy its hallowed halls are stubbornly refusing to alter their long-held beliefs about marijuana, beliefs born out of racism and a capitalistic urge to eliminate competition in the lumber industry. This is a real issue with real facts and it's not just tie-dyed hippies munching cheetos on the couch that are talking about it. I would love if Mr. Ellison joined the conversation in a meaningful way.
Thank you for your time,