Hemp and pot aren't just lookalikes
A recent article on marijuana implied that "hemp" and "pot" are different species ("Plant that looks like pot is not -- but it's still illegal," Sept. 11). The report said hemp "looks like marijuana in every way." A photo caption said, "Hemp's distinctive leaves and buds are virtually identical to those of marijuana." To explain this uncanny resemblance, the article says the two are somehow "related" but assures us that these are really two different kinds of plants.
In fact, hemp and marijuana/pot are the same plant -- the same species. A botanist would call them both Cannabis sativa. The reason the law can't draw a distinction between the two is because there isn't any scientific difference. Sure, there's is variability in THC content between plants, but trying to construct different legal approaches for the wide variety of THC levels within a species, then easily detect these chemical differences in each plant, would be ridiculous. That's why the "industrial hemp" arguments are not as simple as some would have us believe.
ERIC WAAGE, Plymouth
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ST. JUDE MEDICAL
Could be more to the layoffs than reported
Business columnist Lee Schafer implied that St. Jude is laying off 300 workers in order to compensate for the 2.3 percent tax on the sale of medical devices to take affect in 2013 ("St. Jude's job cuts are about device tax," Sept. 12). Isn't it possible that the price of devices will be raised 2.3 percent and the impact will be on users rather than manufacturers? Since all manufactures of medical devices face the same tax, that would seem to be the more likely outcome, and the affect on the bottom line would be zero. The layoffs are more likely an attempt to increase profits in a little- or no-growth business climate that device manufacturers face.
ALFRED WELLNITZ, BLOOMINGTON
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Don't blame teachers for failures of parents
Not only in Chicago -- I hear it here also: Teachers have to be accountable ("Obama has a lot riding on Chicago strike," Sept. 12). I have been a volunteer in Minneapolis public schools for more than 30 years. Teachers can do only so much. Classes can go no faster than the slowest students.
Let's remember that learning starts at home. When are parents going to be held accountable? After all, there's a lot more to getting your child educated than just getting them to the school door.
GARY RIESENBERG, MINNEAPOLIS
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Parent should embrace daughter's choice
As president of Minnesota Atheists, I appreciated Carolyn Hax's advice to the mother who is concerned about her 16-year-old daughter, "Emily" ("Daughter 'comes out' as an atheist," Sept. 10). Surveys show that about 25 percent of younger Americans now hold this world view.
At this point, Emily can no more pretend she is a Christian than her mother can pretend that she herself is an atheist. The mother should honor the courage, honesty, and trust Emily had in confiding in her.
It sounds like the mother brought her daughter up with good ethical values, and there's no reason to suspect that this good behavior would suddenly disappear due to the loss of belief in an invisible sheriff. In fact, if the only reason a person acts well is due to divine threats, it makes that person's morality suspect and shaky.
Perhaps Emily, like so many people her age, is rejecting the tribalism, sexism, homophobia, antipathy toward science and other contradictions found in many religions. Studies of evolution reveal that for societal animals such as humans, empathy, cooperation and a sense of justice are normal. Most people, regardless of their religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, are decent, law-abiding citizens. So let us treat each other well and with kindness. Actions speak louder than words or beliefs.
AUGUST BERKSHIRE, MINNEAPOLIS
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The issues aren't as clear as people think
A recent story on the photo ID "edict" clarified some issues but made others worse ("ID edict could hit 215,000 voters," Sept. 9). The story refers to "photo identification," "a state-issued ID" and "government-approved photo IDs."
These are quite different. It doesn't help that the actual language of the amendment refers to a "valid government-issued photographic identification" without specifying whether the government in question is solely the state, or would it include federal, county, township or municipal governments?
Even worse is the requirement that "all voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted." How is that even possible? What is "substantially equivalent" to showing up before an election judge with a driver's license, and how is it available to a soldier in Afghanistan or a patient in a hospital?
State Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer's claim that faulty language can be cleaned up by the Legislature is simply wrong; it requires a new amendment. And her notion that "even homeless people can have an address assigned by the county or city" sounds like government-sponsored voter fraud.
JOHN SHERMAN, MOORHEAD, MINN.
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Government should not overstep its role
It's sad that our government feels forced to intervene in the diets of children ("Lunchroom menus push healthy foods," Sept. 4). Since when is it the government's responsibility to ensure that children understand portion control, are getting enough exercise or are at a healthy weight? Teaching dietary and exercise habits isn't primarily a school's responsibility.
It's parents' responsibility. Children learn how to eat and care for their bodies in the home. Most children only get one meal a day at school; two more meals plus weekend and summer eating habits are completely under the control of parents. Parents -- not the school system -- must take ownership of their children's dietary and exercise habits.
ZOEY COLE, ST. PAUL