Pubdate: Wed, 20 Apr 2016
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily Iowan


Editor's note: This editorial is a part of our drug issue.

Iowa, though it may not look like it, is predominantly an industrial 
wasteland. The state, according to the Natural History Museum at the 
University of Iowa, is nearly 99 percent terraformed; few pockets of 
untouched earth remain. According to Iowa State University, 
approximately 85 percent of this land alteration has been implemented 
throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries for industrial agriculture, 
specifically row crops such as soybeans and corn.

Of course, this is an endeavor that yields beneficial results: People 
get to eat, and the Iowan economy prospers. On top of this, like a 
cherry on apple pie, we get Americana landscapes: fields of Iowan 
corn, gently swaying in the wind, the cob in the foreground and a red 
barn in the backdrop. These types of images will forever be rooted in 
our national culture.

But the bulk of this corn is hardly suitable for human consumption. 
For this reason, the bulk of Iowan grain (yes, field corn is a grain) 
is instead funneled into three areas: high fructose corn-syrup 
production, animal feed, and ethanol.

Ethanol, though a noble endeavor to protect the corn economies we 
depend on while confronting the need for alternative fuel sources, at 
this moment is not entirely sustainable. And until more non-food 
sources for ethanol production are used, it will remain unsustainable.

Corn syrup, not surprisingly given the sweet and cheap nature of the 
product, has made its way into an astonishing number of packaged 
foods since the 1970s. Perhaps surprising to some, the syrup has also 
been linked to the rise of American obesity and held liable for the 
mass production of cheap junk food and super-sized caloric drinks.

Though maybe the end product of our corn could be controversial or 
perhaps unhealthy, what matters is that Iowans grow it, so Iowans get 
to sell it. Johnson County alone has 1,293 farms (a bit below the 
state average) with a median income of roughly $150,000 per farm in 2007.

The value of corn to the American economy sits at $23.3 billion. 
Marijuana, potentially the U.S.'s top cash crop, sits at $35.8 
billion, according to a study conducted by activist and 
marijuana-policy researcher Jon Gettman.

At present, because of the prohibition against the crop, too much of 
this money is funneled into the hands of violent drug-trafficking 
organizations. On top of this, too many Americans find themselves 
incarcerated for something as trivial as smoking a plant. According 
to the ACLU, in 2010, the rate of marijuana-possession arrests for 
blacks in Iowa was more than eight times that of whites, a statistic 
that is telling of using the drug as a tool of biased policing. 
Incarceration for something as harmless as marijuana is an 
embarrassing waste of state resources.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes it's high time Iowa follows 
the path of Colorado, California, Oregon, and many others and finally 
decriminalizes and gets a slice of the agriculture pot pie. Marijuana 
is not the perfect cash crop, but neither is corn. Yet one is 
significantly more profitable than the other.

If Iowa's farmers were to work within the agricultural framework set 
before them to capitalize on marijuana in conjunction with crops such 
as corn and soybeans, the benefits would far outweigh the negatives.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom