The Letter That Killed the Bill


Note: This letter was faxed to all the members of the Senate Agriculture committee 2 hours before the final hearing on Senate Bill 132, the Hemp Production Act. The letter had a devastating effect on the hearing, causing the defeat of the bill.

Senator Casey, the sponsor of the bill, was understandably upset that the DEA had waited until the last minute to voice an opinion on the bill. Sen. Casey and CO-HIP had been trying to arrange a meeting with the DEA since November 1994 to discuss the bill, to no avail. The DEA refused to meet with proponents of the bill to discuss it.

Special Agent in Charge Philip W. Perry, the author of the letter, has since retired from the DEA.


To: The Honorable Don Ament, Chairman - Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee
Senate Chambers
State Capitol Building
200 East Colfax Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80203

From: U.S. Department of Justice - Drug Enforcement Administration
Rocky Mt. Division
115 Inverness Drive East
Englewood, CO 80112
(303) 784-6300

Dear Senator Ament:

I am taking this opportunity to offer, for the record, the Drug Enforcement Administration's views on Senate Bill 95-132, "Hemp Reclassification" which is currently before your Committee.

As the Special Agent in Charge of DEA's Rocky Mountain Field Division, I am charged with enforcement of the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in Colorado. In this capacity, it is imperative that I advise you that the "Hemp Reclassification Bill", which attempts to legalize the production of the Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indicia, providing the THC content is under 1.4%, violates both the letter and the spirit of the CSA.

Under 21 USC 812 (c) (10), marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, regardless of the percentage of THC content. The production, distribution or dispensing of marijuana is a felony under federal law pursuant to 21 USC 841. The possession of marijuana is also a federal criminal offense under 21 USC 844.

As you are no doubt aware, in cases where Federal and state law are in opposition, the question of which law would control is well settled. In view of these facts, passage of the "Hemp Reclassification Bill" would have the effect of leading otherwise law abiding farmers down the road to the commission of a felony, under the color of a seriously misguided state statute.

If even one honest farmer faces such a dilemma, it would be an insupportable miscarriage of justice.

Beyond the bare facts of the matter on the legality of what this Bill attempts to do, its passage would send a harmful and dysfunctional message to the people of the State of Colorado. A recent nationwide survey conducted by the University of Michigan has shown that the use of marijuana by the nation's school children is on the rise. Enactment of this legislation would add the force of a Colorado statute to the perception that marijuana is "OK."

And let us be clear that what we are talking about in this Bill is marijuana. Calling it "hemp" on the basis of an artificial threshold level of psychoactive ingredient does not erase the fact that it is botanically and legally the same plant. An illegal drug by any other name is still an illegal drug.

The threshold level of THC content which the Bill proposes as the imaginary dividing line between marijuana and hemp communicates another delusional message. No less an authority than Dr. Charles Ksir of the University of Wyoming points out that the marijuana sold of the streets is the 1960s and 1970s was of this strength. To think that those interested in the criminal use and distribution of marijuana would forsake the "hemp" as defined by the Bill is altogether naive.

The claims of the Bill's proponents that Colorado would derive some economic benefit from the commercial production of Cannabis are equally deceptive. In the words of Joseph E. Atchison, Ph.D., an international consultant to the pulp and paper industry, "...it would make far more sense for U.S. Industry to consider returning to the use of agricultural residues which are grown for other purposes, such as wheat straw, seed grass straw and grain sorghum stalks, rather than attempting to grow a plant just for its fiber content, such as kenaf and hemp."

Although I am not an expert in the economics of crop production, I believe that my 31 years as a federal drug agent make me an expert in drug law enforcement. From that standpoint I can tell you that, in my professional opinion, this legislation is no more than a shallow ruse being advanced by those who seek to legalize marijuana. The people of Colorado deserve to be protected from this sort of subterfuge.

The federal criminal law on this subject does provide such protection and will be enforced with all the vigor at DEA's command.

Thank you for giving consideration to my statements on this matter.

Sincerely,

Philip W. Perry

Special Agent in Charge


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