Grassley: “Illegal Drug Use Costs Society at Least As Much As Genocide”

April 3rd, 2008 · 11 Comments

Not too long ago, I stumbled across a few blog entries that pointed to this letter, posted on the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law’s website, originally sent by Senator Tom Harkin to a constituent.

In the letter, Harkin argues in favor of the war on drugs, employing the typical tough-on-crime banter — drugs kill people, think of the children, legalizing pot is surrender, etc. Standard fare, and not without legitimacy, but a bit unforgiving coming from a man considered to be a strong progressive leader.

But here’s the part that caught the attention of NORML and the blogs. Wrote Harkin, “The victims of the drug war are many – the small child whose parents are so addicted to illegal drugs that they sell everything including perhaps their own children to obtain a fix…”

Last summer, NORML launched an e-mail campaign asking supporters to write their elected officials urging them to support the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, which would have prevented the feds from pressing charges against medical marijuana patients in states that have legalized the herb for therapeutic reasons. Predictably, for the fifth time since 2003, the bill was soundly defeated.

I had sent NORML’s pre-written letter along to Representatives Leonard Boswell and Tom Latham and Senators Harkin and Charles Grassley. After I did that, I noticed that they had another letter calling for the legalization of the drug. Curious if anyone would respond to such an outlandish suggestion, I decided to send that to all four as well.

After I read the Harkin letter on the blogs last month, I looked for my old letters. I’ve misplaced my Harkin and Latham replies, but I found letters back from Boswell (a Democrat) and Grassley (a Republican) on legalization (they, of course, both oppose it). Grassley’s response was far more absurd than anything Harkin wrote in his letter. It’s like my middle school DARE class all over again:

[October 5, 2007]

Dear Mr. Aronsen:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your thoughts on marijuana. I always enjoy hearing from people back home.

I must, however, disagree with your views on this topic. You see, 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.

Some drug users believe that their drug use only affects themselves and that they pose no threat to society. This belief is misguided. People who use drugs do so to alter their perceptions of reality. When someone is high, they cannot be as alert to dangers that are always around us, dangers such as a boiling pot on the stove, a burning candle, or even something as simple as an open window. We know that drug-using workers are 3 to 4 times as likely to have on-the-job accidents, 4 to 6 time more likely to have off-the-job accidents, 2 to 3 times more likely to file medical claims, 5 times more likely to file workman’s compensation, and 25 percent to 35 percent less productive on the job. To claim that drug use affects only the user is to deny the reality that whatever we do effects those around us.

Society retains a right, and in many cases an obligation, to sustain programs that reduce–but may not be able to eliminate–the problems they are designed to resolve. Despite our wishes to the contrary, we do not live in a perfect world. This is true with respect to pollution, violent crime, child abuse, and countless other areas where there is no true hope of ultimate success in ending the abuse. In the case of drug control, absolute success isn’t necessary to justify prohibition, nor is an unpleasant side-effect necessarily sufficient cause to end it. We do not demand 100 percent success as a justification for other abuses that society attempts to place upon its fellow members. We only ask that we strive towards perfection, that we reach for ideals.

After several thousand years, civilized societies have failed to eliminate murder, rape, or child abuse. Nor have they eliminated organized crime, the manufacture of counterfeit money, or genocide. But no one seriously sees these failures as justification for surrender. Illegal drug use costs society at least as much as any of these social ills. Yet we do not hear any calls to legalize these abuses. Why then should we give up? Should we surrender to the criminals, and legalize marijuana? No. Instead, we should do whatever we can to prevent criminals from gaining the upper hand, do what needs to be done to give our families, our friends, and our neighbors a safe and secure place to live.

I want to thank you again for contacting me. I have very strong feelings about the importance of maintaining a representative government. For democracy to function, there has to be two-way communication between Americans and their elected representatives. By sharing your views with me, Iowans play a vital role in this process. Hearing from you enables me to be a better U.S. Senator, and I very much appreciate the time you took to contact me. Thanks again for keeping in touch.

Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator

This probably helps to explain why one of every 99 U.S. adults is behind bars. And if illegal drug use is as bad as rape, child abuse, and genocide, as Grassley so boldly claims, we should probably see to it that the statistic goes up.

For the record, from Iowa, Representatives Bruce Braley and Leonard Boswell (Democrats) and Tom Latham and Steve King (Republicans) all voted against the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment (take note, Iowa Progress). Only Democrat Dave Loebsack voted for the bill.

But at least someone in the House is on the side of reason. Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank is proposing a bill that would nix all federal penalties for personal possession of up to 3.5 ounces of weed. Sound crazy? It’s based on the findings of the 1972 National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse study, which was commissioned by President Nixon.

Tags: Blogs · Gavin Aronsen · Gavin's Journal

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Adam Smith // Apr 5, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I cant believe this guy. I think he is just getting old and senial.

    This “fiscal conservative” also has more earmarks than progressive Tom Harkin. Not too conservative there buddy!

    Who are we fielding to kick his butt in 2010?

  • 2 Jamal Reed // Apr 7, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Wow! Grassley once again proves how out of touch he is with Iowans. He should be in a nursing home, not in the senate.

  • 3 Civ // Apr 18, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Related to this post, I heard about the new movie being released, “Super High Me” and after searching for a local showing this Sunday saw that Ames Progressive was listed as a location. Any special plans for the showing?

  • 4 garonsen // Apr 18, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    No drugs allowed :)

    We’re screening it at the office at 8 p.m. Sunday (4/20) and it’s open to the public, with weekly open mic following.

    We might have a discussion after the film before open mic, but we’re mostly just winging it (SOP at the Ames Progressive).

  • 5 Civ // Apr 18, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    That’s not exactly what I was thinking about, but I will however stop and pick up some snacks just in case others don’t read the above notice hahaha (or pre-partake)

  • 6 Bob from Nevada Iowa // Jul 6, 2008 at 5:41 am

    typical boilerplate hick mentality from a hick senator. We deserve to look like hayseeds from a hick state for continuing to field reps who are so very stuck as to completely refuse the national tide and all the science. Cannabis has NO LD50 and here is this bigshot lawyer, Grassley, insisting it kills people.

    There is no persuading this hick lawyer. We are jambed on him and must turn him out and he is so entrenched that isn’t going to happen, either. He will die with his reefer mad boots on and that is how this is going to play out. I have lived here all my life and he and sold out to the pharmacy corps Harkin are a ball and chain to us all.

    I will keep writing and bitching and begging them, but they are totally disconnected from the public as to receiving a new idea… new as of how many decades? oh, since Nixon started ignoring the science in the 60′s.

    The AMA students are now down with changing the cannabis scheduel to allow medical. Soon these two hick lawyers will lose the AMA as well. It will change nothing for them. They are too “courageous” to change their minds.


  • 7 Gene Courter LCSW/DCSW/BCD // Jul 6, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Poor Chuck! Really out of touch with current research. He really should take the time to educate himself on (MJ) issue before he makes a fool of himself. It is so very true that U.S. thinking and culture is far ahead of the old folks that run this great country. In the near future this will come to an end and the U.S. will be on the same page with the people that “pay” morons like Chuck!

  • 8 jordyn // Jul 10, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    i think america needs to wake up and smell the weed. i personally think that if marijuana is illegal, alcohol should be right next to it. being high is a lot safer then being drunk. when you’re drunk, you experience false vision, your judgment goes out the window, your reactions are delayed, and more than enough people drive while under the influence of alcohol. when you’re high, you enter a state of zen, where you are more aware of your surroundings, you’re calm, and you know what you’re doing. also, i’m sure many people will agree with me when i say that smoking is bad for your body. but if that’s why people are against marijuana, then why are cigarettes legal? they do the same things to your heart and lungs that marijuana does. honestly, the only negative side effect of weed is that it can cause someone to gain weight. but america is fat already so that shouldnt even matter. if i had to choose between riding in a car with a drunk driver, or a high driver, i would go with the one under the influence of marijuana. because it’s not a BAD thing. i just want to know what people think is so horrible about it. legalize the green!

  • 9 nate // Jul 12, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Yeah, Grassley didn’t mention the thousands of yearly deaths from alcohol poisoning or drunk driving, nor did he mention the millions of people who are hopelessly addicted to that powerful toxin. In his letter, he bizarrely equates the illegality of marijuana-smoking with the most extreme societal ills (“murder, rape, child abuse … organized crime, the manufacture of counterfeit money or genocide”) but he doesn’t mention the legal status of the certified killer, alcohol. No one in the history of humans has ever overdosed and died from smoking marijuana. (Though the overly enthusiastic are sometimes known to (oh God!) fall asleep.) The point is not that alcohol should be prohibited. The point is that the prohibition of marijuana is silly in comparison to the toxicity of legal drugs. So, in light of this, why is Charles Grassley so afraid of marijuana? He needs to relax. Here Chuck, try this…

  • 10 bob searcy // Jul 12, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    i wrote to this sap myself but like others have already pointes out, he appears to be a very closed minded , misguided man. i suggested that legal uppers and downers, and legal pot combined wouldnt do near the damage that booze does. the war has become a war on personal freedom, what we hhold most dear. sad

  • 11 Stock Index | | Cannabis Stock Performance // Feb 7, 2015 at 10:00 am

    [...] expressed his disapproval of state legalization efforts, but in a 2007 letter to his constituents said that illegal drug use costs society as much as murder, rape, and genocide. Grassley’s views [...]

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