I asked a question on Senator Chuck Grassley’s Facebook page a few months ago, and he commented that he would respond in a letter. I expected a form letter, and while he could have stated some of this stuff before, it seems like Grassley might be updating his stance on medical marijuana.
I’m typing the letter up and highlighting things I like so others can see what the Senator has to say about what’s going on here in Iowa.
Senator Grassley responded to some questions I had about student financial aid being affected by a drug conviction, as well as the Iowa Board of Pharmacy ruling that marijuana is medicine. It seems he and I agree on some legal requirements for what will be needed to satisfy criteria for marijuana being recognized as medicine.
I’m going to sit and think about this one for a bit. Could this be signs that Republicans are realizing marijuana’s status quo is officially changing? Or is this Grassley’s political speak as usual? He has tried to legally silence discussion in the past.
Y’know, if the Democrats can figure out the correct side to be on this Constitutional issue, surely Republicans can! Here’s hoping Grassley delves a wee bit deeper into this issue…turns out a local state agency has determined marijuana is medicine for a reason…and continues to be willing to discuss this issue with his constituents. Thanks Senator.
Dear Mr. Karimi:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me via Facebook. I apologize that it has taken so long to get back to you; current events have resulted in large numbers of concerned Iowans contacting me and it has been difficult to respond as quickly as I would like. However, I’m glad to have this opportunity to respond to your message.
I appreciate your sharing with me your concerns about provisions in the Higher Education Act prohibiting persons convicted of drug offenses from receiving student financial assistance. I am glad to know your views on the subject.
I want to be clear that I support anyone who wants to pursue a higher education. I also believe in providing financial assistance to those who are eligible and in need. However, the principle behind federal financial assistance starts with the understanding that students and their parents have the primary responsibility for paying for a higher education. Federal financial assistance is available to those with additional financial need beyond what they are able to contribute, but it is not a right. Students who do not take their education seriously enough to refrain from drug use while pursuing their studies should not receive taxpayer subsidies.
I want to emphasize that an individual with a drug conviction is not banned from receiving financial aid indefinitely. The Higher Education Act differentiates between whether the conviction is the first, second, or third for the violation. Students convicted of possession of a controlled substance will lose federal financial aid eligibility for one year upon their first offense, will lose their eligibility for two years upon a second offense, and will lose their eligibility indefinitely upon a third offense. Furthermore, students convicted of the sale of a controlled substance will be ineligible for federal financial assistance for two years for the first offense and will lose their eligibility indefinitely for a second offense.
However, in implementing this provision of the law in the past, the Department of Education did not do a sufficient job distinguishing between recent drug convictions and past conviction sfor which this provision does not apply. Therefore, in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, I supported language that further clarified that this provision only applies to students who were convicted for the sale or possession of a controlled substance that occurred while the student was enrolled in postsecondary education and receiving federal student aid.
Additionally, even students whose eligibility for federal financial aid has been suspended have an option to regain their eligibility. If the individual successfully completes an acceptable drug rehabilitation program that complies with the standards set by Congress and the Department of Education, he or she will regain eligibility on the date the program is completed.
You also expressed interest in the Iowa Board of Pharmacy’s recent recommendation to move marijuana to a Schedule II drug. 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 legal drug will not change any of this. The laws granting the government the authority over the movement and sale of these dangerous substances is well established and has been thoroughly reviewed by the courts.
Over 15,000 scientific, peer-reviewed studies into the medicinal value of marijuana have been published. Not one demonstrates that marijuana has any medicinal value for any condition. Indeed, there is medical evidence to suggest that marijuana may actually aggravate some of the conditions it is supposed to treat, such as glaucoma or wasting.
Americans today have the world’s safest, most effective system of medical practice, bulit on a process of scientific research, testsing and oversight that is unequaled. Every drug prescribed as medicine in this country must be tested according to scientifically rigorous protocols to ensure that it is safe and effective before it can be sold. Legalizing marijuana through the political process bypasses the safeguards established by the FDA to protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs.
It is also important to point out that for every instance claimed as a use for marijuana, there exists a far better, legitimate, scientifically approved medication. This includes Marinol, which is a legally available, FDA-approved form of a marijuana extract that is currently being used as a treatment for nausea and AIDS wasting syndrome. Many other medicines have been developed and have received FDA approval that do not have the hallucinogenic side effects that come with smoking marijuana. These are medicines that meet scientific standards and do not rely on anecdotes and testimony for validation.
Certainly, I want to provide relief for people who are sick and dying. Should research someday prove that smoking marijuana does have medicinal value, I would support its use for medical purposes. But even then, it should occur only under proper medical supervision and should conform to the prescription procedures under which other medicines are administered.
As a fellow Iowan, I share your interest in this matter before the Iowa General Assembly, however, the Constitution places limited authority upon Congress to enact laws within the scope of the powers enumerated in Article I, Section 8. As such, it appears this issue would be best addressed by the Iowa legislature because the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution expressly states any powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states.
Since this is a state issue, I encourage you to contact your state legislators if you have not already done so. Please call the Iowa State Capitol at 515.281.5011 for information regarding your state representative and senator so that you can share your views with them as well. They deal with this matter more directly and need to hear from you so that they can effectively do their job. You may also wish to contact Governor Branstad by writing to him at the Iowa Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
Thank you again for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance with any federal matter. My offices in Iowa, as well as in Washington, D.C., are here to serve you. Keep in touch!
Charles E. Grassley
United States Senator