January 5, 1993
LABOR AND HUMAN
Carl E. Olson
P.O. Box 4091
Des Moines, IA 50333
Thank you for contacting me once again to discuss the issue of the medical use of marijuana. I always appreciate your letters on this issue.
You point out that the Iowa State Democratic Party Platform included a provision concerning the medical use of marijuana, and suggest that, as a Democrat, it is my "responsibility to represent the views of [my] party." This is a fundamental misunderstanding of my role and responsibility as a United States Senator. My responsibility is to represent the people of the state of Iowa, and the people of the United States, and to work to promote their best interests to the best of my abilities. The Party Platform is an important expression of the views of the party, and I take it into account when I make decisions on legislation. However, the people of Iowa did not elect the Democratic Party Platform to serve as their Senator -- they elected me, and I have to take responsibility for the positions I take regarding issues.
My position is that the issue of whether or not to approve the medical use of marijuana is one that medical experts should to decide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with making the decisions of whether such medications are safe and effective, and therefore I certainly think that any drug which has therapeutic effects which cannot be derived from any other medication should be available to patients. However, such drugs must be approved by the FDA in order to assure they are in no way the subject of abuse. It is my understanding that there are respected medical experts on both sides of this issue.
What I may not have adequately communicated to you, which may have been the source of your confusion about my position on this issue, is that I do not believe that this is an issue that should be addressed as a legislative matter. The FDA may take action to approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes under current law. I should point out that the Democratic Party Platform provision you mentioned did not discuss the method by which the medical use of marijuana should be promoted. I would suggest that the proper body to evaluate the safety and efficacy of marijuana for the medical uses you advocate is the FDA, rather than the Congress of the United States. While I understand the depth of your commitment to this issue, I want you to understand that I do not believe a legislative solution to this issue would be a wise policy, or indeed that such a bill if introduced would have any realistic chance of passage through the Congress. Should such legislation come before the Senate, please be assured that I will take your concerns into account.
Again, Carl, thank you for contacting me once again on this issue. I know that you will keep me informed of your views and concerns.
United States Senator
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