Re: Larry Gabriel's Higher Ground column "Hep on hemp" (July 11), the United States is one of the few countries in the world that denies farmers the right to grow industrial hemp. Apparently drug war bureaucrats can't tell the difference between a tall hemp stalk and a squat marijuana bush. Before passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, few Americans had even heard of marijuana, despite widespread cultivation of industrial hemp.
The first anti-marijuana laws were a racist reaction to Mexican immigration during the early 1900s. White Americans did not even begin to smoke pot until a soon-to-be entrenched federal bureaucracy began funding "reefer madness" propaganda. Decades later, marijuana use is now mainstream. Marijuana prohibition has been counterproductive at best.
If health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural norms, marijuana would be legal. The direct experience of millions of Americans contradicts the lies used to justify marijuana prohibition. Reefer madness is a poor excuse for criminalizing Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis. There is no excuse for denying farmers the right to grow industrial hemp. —Robert Sharpe, policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington, D.C.