Behind The Times

I received a letter from Kentucky State Senator Wil Schroder concerning Kentucky’s pension crisis, the shortfall and what efforts are being made to deal with it. The Senator mentioned ideas suggested by the citizens such as expanded gambling.  One would think that,’ every little bit helps,’ however he added that expanded gambling would not be enough to solve the problem.

Another idea floated by the citizens was to embrace the cannabis industry. Surprisingly this idea was not included in the Senator’s letter along with expanded gambling.  One wonders, what is it about the cannabis industry that so terrifies our legislators that they would omit cannabis and not list it along with the other citizen ideas?  As the Senator said in his letter, “inaccurate statements are not helpful in solving problems.”  I would point out that ignoring practical solutions voiced by the citizens doesn’t help either!

Let us be clear, since 1996 when California passed its medical cannabis program, 29 States have established medical cannabis legalization and 9 have both medical and recreational legalization. California has had a medical program for 21 years and passed recreational legalization in 2016.

Despite 80 years of unfounded and sometimes ridiculous claims by those who gave us cannabis prohibition in 1937 and by those who wish it to continue, 21 years of citizen access to cannabis has yet to produce any of these dire predictions. Contrary to their predictions for example, teen use continues to decline as reported by the latest Government survey.

Colorado is the example everyone points to as having successfully integrated the cannabis industry into its economy. The result, to quote Colorado’s Republican Governor Hickenlooper, “has not been as vexing as we thought it would be.”  Beginning with medical legalization in 2012 and expanding the market to recreational use in 2014, Colorado has become the industry leader.  The numbers tell the tale.  Colorado collected 150 million in revenue on 1.3 billion in sales for 2016 and has created 20,000 industry jobs.  Additionally this has engendered billions in ancillary economic activity creating even more jobs and revenue.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after a state passes a non-restrictive medical cannabis program that grows to 33% by year 6. Indeed the numbers from Colorado seem to bear this out.  Colorado had 479 opioid overdose deaths for 2015 that dropped to 422 for 2016.  Kentucky has 4.5 million citizens compared to Colorado’s 5.5 million citizens yet Kentucky saw 1278 opioid overdose deaths for 2016 and even more for 2017 so far.

We have the eastern half of the state sorely in need of an industry to replace the jobs lost to automation and the decline of the coal industry. It seems incredulous to any objective observer that Kentucky’s legislators should ignore this industry any longer. The cannabis industry used to belong to Kentucky and it can again!  Simply adapt Colorado’s regulations to fit Kentucky, stand back and watch Kentucky’s brawn and brains build the cannabis industry here into the regional, and as legalization spreads, the national leader in the industry.

It seems irresponsible to ignore the boon received form embracing the industry. Our eastern counties need this industry.  Our citizens suffering from conditions and illnesses helped by medical cannabis need this industry.  Our citizens suffering from opioid addiction need this industry, and the pension shortfall needs the millions this industry will produce.

California passed their medical program some 21 years ago. If it is true that Mark Twain said he wanted to be in Cincinnati when the world ends because its twenty years behind the times, then the Assembly is a year late!   Instead of hiding it’s time for the Assembly to step up, consider the facts and pass cannabis legalization during the next session whether special or regular.  The health and welfare of Kentucky’s citizens demand action!

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Time for a New ‘New Deal”

I watched an episode of the business program ‘On The Money’ on Sunday July 30, 2017. The first and main topic was something called Universal Income.  The idea that instead of all the poverty programs and such, the Government should just give everybody a check every month for $1000 dollars.   When one considers the gap between rich and poor, the rate of automation and the fact that there will never be enough jobs to go around it might be a better way of keeping our folks out of abject poverty. The drawback was the cost.  One of the commentators said it would cost upwards of 3 trillion dollars. However there is a way to reach the goal of a Universal Income, eliminating abject poverty, and at a much lower cost.  Here’s how.

Start by expanding Social Security. Eliminate the cap on taxable income and raise the tax to 8% from the current rate of 6.2%.  Then lower the age of eligibility to 50 years.

Create a stipend that will give a check to all adults and High School Grads of $1200 a month. Those who do not finish High School should have to wait till they are 20 to encourage them to finish school.  They can use this fund to support them if they go to college or to help them in getting started in life. Our wealthy students are able to go to college and do well precisely because they have a financial platform to support them.  This would give all our students the same support.  Go to the Stock Market and place a tax of 3% on all trades to fund the stipend.  The market in 2016 did, according to the World Bank, over 42 trillion in trades and a 3% tax won’t break the bank.  The payments should be set up so one gradually loses the stipend as they move up the economic ladder in a way that will encourage advancement. A basic stipend would allow us to eliminate all those poverty programs conservatives always complain about. Currently we spend a trillion dollars on some 126 anti-poverty programs and their elimination would certainly offset the cost of the stipend.

Imagine the country with no one in abject poverty. Imagine the numbers of kids now being able to go to college because they have the financial support to do so.  The economic force of all that spending would drive the economy to new heights and would certainly close the income gap between the rich and poor that is hurting our economy and country.

A basic stipend would free workers from starving or being held in economic servitude, making only enough to pay for enough food to be able to work another 40 hours. Business would have to bid for one’s labor instead of workers begging for a job!  We can take back the dignity and value our labor should produce. We can boost the spending power of the poor and middle class and leave behind the failed and greedy policy of ‘trickle down’ economics which has damaged our economy and brought about the latest version of the Great Recession!

Yep, we can do this if we only have the will. We can make this country live up to the promises articulated by President Roosevelt in his famous ‘Four Freedoms” speech, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear and the last which always seems to be forgotten, Freedom from want!  We have the power and wealth to accomplish the last of these.  The mechanics are in place.  The tools are available to us.  Let us make a better country and thereby a better world by finishing the work set out for us by President Roosevelt some 76 years ago.  Let us end poverty and financial inequality in America once and for all!

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Please, Just Stop!

Kentucky State Senator McGarvey has proposed a medical cannabis bill for the upcoming session of the Kentucky Assembly. It would allow for the use of medical cannabis but only for terminally ill patients.  One wonders, setting aside the fact that medical cannabis should be available to all who can benefit from it, does the Senator think cannabis is so dangerous that it should be allowed only for citizens who are going to die anyway?  What exactly does the Senator and the Assembly think they are protecting us from?

Currently 29 States have passed medical cannabis legalization and 9 have recreational legalization. California passed a medical bill in 1996 in which it is relatively easy for patients to access medical cannabis through a Doctor and in 2016 passed recreational legalization.  Colorado passed a medical bill in 2012 and a recreational bill in 2014.  The results in Colorado have been astounding.  The cannabis market in Colorado paid 150 million dollars in revenue on 1.3 billion dollars in sales for 2016 alone.  A little less than half from medical sales.  The market has created 18,000 full time jobs and millions in ancillary economic activity.  In addition they have seen a significant drop in opioid overdose deaths, almost half since 2012.  The work of changing their policy from prohibition to one of freedom of the market has been, to quote the Republican Governor Hickenlooper,”not as vexing as we thought.”  Since Kentucky has 4.5 million people and Colorado has 5.5 we think we would see similar results here.

Despite the outcry of those who would continue cannabis prohibition, none of the harms of legalization predicted for the last eighty years have surfaced in California in the 21 years since California passed legalization in 1996 nor in the 29 States who have passed medical legalization or the 9 States who have passed recreational legalization. Not one! Kentucky State Representative Benvenuti once said he could fill a room with the bodies of those killed by cannabis. We have yet to see any and don’t expect to.

Why then should Kentucky continue the unreasonable and arbitrary policy of prohibition? What exactly are the members of the Assembly protecting us from?  Jobs?  Revenue?  A 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths that grows to 33% by year 6 after legalization?  An industry to replace the coal industry?

Please stop! Stop trying to protect us from a nonexistent bogeyman created for both racist and political reasons eighty years ago! Please, enough is enough!  Stop trying to protect us by arresting us and jailing us and confiscating our property simply because it is what you have always done and none of you have the courage to stop.

More than half of the states have legalized cannabis for medical reasons. The war on cannabis is over.  Science and logic have won over racism and suppression.

Here in Kentucky let us celebrate this victory of truth and freedom. Let us put an end to the war here.  Please, let us stop cannabis prohibition now!

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Unreasonable and Arbitrary

A lawsuit has been filed against the Kentucky Governor and the Attorney General claiming the prohibition of the use of medical marijuana is unconstitutional. The Kentucky Constitution says a law cannot be unreasonable and arbitrary.  The State allows the use of opioid medications which have a history of addiction and overdose deaths, yet prohibits the use of a vastly safer drug with a record of zero deaths in its 4000 year history of human use.  Science supports this claim and therefore continuing the prohibition of marijuana for medical reasons is arbitrary and unreasonable.

The same can be said of the recreational use of marijuana.

The State allows and even promotes the recreational use of alcohol which has a history of tens of thousands of deaths from its use every year and untold acts of violence and criminality. The State at the same time prohibits the recreational use of marijuana which like the medical use, has a history of zero deaths from its use.  Indeed, the Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration declared in a hearing that marijuana was, “The safest therapeutic substance known to man.”  Twenty years of medical use in California has yet to produce any of the prohibitionist’s predictions of doom and gloom.

This unscientific prohibition is completely arbitrary. When one considers that the availability of marijuana to the citizens of a State can drop opioid overdose deaths by as much as 50%, continuing the prohibition of marijuana for medical or recreational uses is not only arbitrary but totally unreasonable.

Let’s face facts. The prohibition of marijuana began as a racist attempt to keep Mexicans from taking ‘American jobs’ during the 30s.  It morphed into a scam to harass Nixon’s political enemies and has been used by politicians to show their toughness on crime.  Cannabis prohibition was never about protecting the citizens and in reality has ruined millions of lives over these last 80 years.  Continuing prohibition at this point is without question, arbitrary and unreasonable!

The plaintiffs should win in court.

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Callus and Morally Indefensible!

Mercy Health Hospitals in an Op-ed in the May 11, 2017 Kentucky Enquirer talks about the opioid epidemic and calls for a multi-pronged approach in dealing with it. Their program of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, SBIRT, has screened thousands of patients.  Unfortunately they do not give any stats that show the program is effective.  They also state we should treat addiction as the disease it is.  That is exactly what Nixon’s commission on drugs advised back in the early 70s.  Instead we got the war on drugs!

As effective as the Mercy Health approach is, there is a more effective action that can drop the number of opioid overdose deaths by more than half. As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, States with medical cannabis laws see a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after legalizing medical marijuana which grows to 33% by year 6.  We can cut our opioid overdose deaths by a third simply by legalizing medical marijuana.

In Colorado which has both medical and recreational marijuana legalization, have seen a drop of 66% since medical legalization was approved in 2012.   They had 479 opioid overdose deaths for 2015 and that dropped to 442 for 2016.

Let us compare Kentucky and Colorado. Colorado has 5.5 million people and Kentucky has 4.5 million. Colorado has comparable medical and addiction services and is similar to Kentucky in many ways.  The only major difference is Colorado has embraced marijuana legalization and Kentucky, even though medical legalization polls at 80% favorability and recreational at 60%, has rejected legalization.  Colorado’s numbers for 2015 were 479 and Kentucky’s were 1278, almost 3 times that of Colorado.

Given the facts of the benefits of marijuana legalization in preventing opioid overdose deaths by more than half, as is the case in Colorado, no one can claim to be serious about opioid addiction and overdose deaths without including cannabis legalization as a tool to fight this epidemic. Cannabis legalization, in reality, has a better record of mitigating this epidemic than any other policy that has been tried or is currently in use! I dare our legislators to name another policy that can drop the number of these deaths by a third.   They can’t.

Veterans suffering from chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress stop taking an average of 8 different prescriptions for pain meds and meds to deal with the side effects of the various medicines they are given when they start using medical cannabis. Veterans claim far better outcomes than their counter parts who stay on the VA cocktail prescribed for pain and PTSD.

We need credible action to fight this devastating epidemic. What we are currently doing is not effective. Adding addiction services will help but it seems the easiest, most effective and credible action we can take right now is simply to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational uses and watch the numbers fall!  Not taking an action that can provide such benefit in fighting this scourge is not only callus and inhuman but also morally indefensible!

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Nothing Less Will Suffice

April 20 is considered, in America and worldwide, as the ‘stoners’ holiday, the day to celebrate all things cannabis. How this particular date has come to be a holiday is murky at best.  It’s something about meeting up after school around 4:20 pm to relax and enjoy marijuana with friends.

This year has witnessed a 420 holiday the likes of which we haven’t seen before. The feeling that legalization is winning and that the facts of marijuana use are finally out weighing the lies and propaganda that has kept this originally racist policy in place for 80 years.

In all this celebrating of the benefits, both medical and economic, of marijuana, one thing stands out. The Federal Government still classifies marijuana under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act as schedule1, dangerous and having no medical value.

The current Attorney General, Mr. Sessions, would take us back to the days of Jim Crow when marijuana prohibition was used to suppress African Americans. Nixon and his boys used it to go after his political enemies as attested to by Nixon Aide John Ehrlichman in a 1994 interview.  Indeed the only drugs listed as schedule 1 in 1970 were those the Administration had associated with Nixon’s political enemies, African Americans and Anti-War Protesters.

One wonders if our Legislators are blind to the wishes of the citizens who favor legalization. Medical use polls at 80% favorability and recreational at 60%.  2017’s 420 holiday saw parades and protests against prohibition and not only did the National news cover it as in past years, but 3 of the 4 local channels, with newscasters giggling and making gestures like they were smoking joints, covered it too!

Seeing all the hoopla, especially by the local stations, made me think that, except for our Legislators, marijuana use has become acceptable in current society. This notion was confirmed on Sunday with the morning paper. There, with the paper was the 23 April, 2017 edition of Parade Magazine with its cover story, ‘What People Earn, Our Annual Report’.  On the cover are listed some of the jobs in the article and right there next to Day Laborer, $10,400, News Anchor, $10 – $12 million and Detective/Deputy Sheriff, $69,000 was Marijuana Retail Exec, $65,000!

Maybe it’s time for our Legislators to catch up. Twenty years of use in California has proven that the claims of those who would continue prohibition are not going to happen.  The citizens know it.  Anybody with any knowledge of the issue both pro and con know it and our leaders should acknowledge it too.  Time has come to end the failed policy of prohibition once and for all both on the State and Federal levels.  Nothing less will suffice!

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To Justify the Unjustifiable, We Blame the Mothers

Cincinnati’s WKRC, Channel 12 ran a story about a study claiming that marijuana use by pregnant women ‘may’ cause brain damage in the fetus or later mental problems. Setting aside the fact that every one of these studies all say ‘may’ or ‘might’, one must ignore 4000 years of anecdotal evidence.  Women have been using marijuana for menstrual cramps and morning sickness since ancient times and there is no reported evidence of any problems with birth or birth defects in all that time.

Israeli researchers, who have been studying marijuana and it’s properties for decades, and discovered the human cannabinoid system, have yet to find any definitive link between marijuana use and brain damage and in fact have discovered that marijuana use engenders brain cell growth the opposite of alcohol which causes brain cell death.

This idea of brain damage came up after the publishing of a very questionable study from New Zealand which claimed marijuana use caused schizophrenia. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown touted this study in an effort to increase penalties for marijuana use to gin up conservative voters in his election.  It was a big scandal and his health minister quit over the uproar.

Since then this claim has morphed into mental problems in adults and when that didn’t get traction it became mental problems in the developing teen brain and now it has devolved to the fetus and we are blaming the mothers in an embarrassing attempt to keep prohibition going!

Marijuana has been used for thousands of years and has been prohibited for only 80. The push to connect marijuana and mental health problems in the fetus is just another attempt to justify a prohibition that cannot be justified.  Better we spend our efforts in finding the positive uses for marijuana because in 80 years we sure have had a hard time proving any bad ones.

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