Maybe Next Year

And so another session of the Kentucky Assembly comes to an end without passage of a comprehensive cannabis bill. State Senator John Schickel assured the 75% of our citizens who are supporters of cannabis law reform that there would be hearings in the interim and something might get done next year.  That’s interesting because it’s the same thing they have been told for the last 5 years!

One wonders, with 23 States and the District of Columbia having medical cannabis laws, and 4 states and DC having passed recreational cannabis laws, exactly what could possibly be learned from hearings in the interim that haven’t already been brought forward? There have been dozens of hearings right here in Kentucky over the last 5 years.  I doubt if our Legislators will find anything new on this subject.

Why our Legislators took no action this year is puzzling given the benefits of legalization being realized in other states. The massive amount of economic activity, revenue and job creation experienced in Colorado will certainly be experienced here should legalization occur.

Colorado for example garnered 135 million in revenue from 947 million in sales for 2015. Slightly more than half was from recreational sales and the rest from medical sales with 21,000 jobs created in the industry.  Colorado along with the states with medical cannabis laws also experienced a large drop in opioid overdose deaths and a nominal drop in suicides.

Statistically here in Kentucky we can expect approximately 280 deaths to occur during the next year because of our failure to pass a comprehensive bill this year. Having already lost a family member to overdose death I can only hope that none of my family members are in that 280 for next year.

What could it be that is so terrible about legalizing marijuana that we would accept these avoidable deaths with a shrug and a ‘maybe next year’? Certainly it can’t be safety, the Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Judge Andrew Young, ruled as far back as 1988 that marijuana was, “the safest therapeutic substance known to man.”   And there is the practical evidence from California where the citizens have had a medical marijuana program since 1996, twenty years, and none of the predicted harms have materialized.

Could it be fear? So far no politician has been punished by the voters for passing a marijuana reform bill anywhere.

Sadly maybe it’s just arrogance and the inability to admit that what they have been told for 79 years about marijuana, information some hung their careers on, was a complete lie. They can’t accept it even when confronted with the evidence, especially when you realize some of our legislators are prosecutors and know better.

Whatever the reason, it certainly cannot justify the cavalier attitude of our legislators regarding the avoidable deaths they must accept to be able to say, “Maybe next year”.

 

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How Long Must We Wait and How Many Will Die?

I was looking at some old newspaper posts and came across this one in the May 18 2013 Corbin Times Tribune mentioning the 2012 Kentucky Health Issues poll. Here’s the paragraph

‘The headline in the May 15, 2013 Kentucky Enquirer, ‘Ky Poll: Most Support Medical Marijuana’, which reported on the 2012 Kentucky Health Issues Poll, found that 78% of Kentucky’s citizens think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. The Kentucky Health Issues Poll is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati and conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati.’

Here we are 4 years later and no bill.  How long must our citizens wait for a medical marijuana bill that has a 78% approval rating?  In addition we now know scientifically that Opioid overdose deaths drop by 25% the first year after passage.  That’s approximately 280 deaths in Kentucky that would not happen every year after a bill is passed.  280 X 4 years = 1120 of our citizens who would be alive right now if a bill had been passed in 2012.

What is the matter with our legislators that the neither the opinion of their voters, nor science, nor the 280 deaths yearly that could be prevented, nor the money saved, nor the millions in revenue that would be earned even as they struggle for new revenue sources, nor the 20,000 jobs, nothing seems to be able to move our legislators to pass even a medical marijuana bill this session? What could be the reason for such obstructionism that it should last so many years and cost so many lives?

Certainly it can’t be safety. Marijuana is considered one of, if not the safest of all the recreational or medical drugs.  Not one overdose in 4000 years of use by humans is a pretty good record.  The Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Judge Young, ruled as far back as 1988 that marijuana was, “the safest therapeutic substance known to man.”   And there is the practical evidence from California where the citizens have had a medical marijuana program since 1996, twenty years, and none of the predicted harms of marijuana use have materialized.

Could it be fear? There is plenty of science and information available showing marijuana’s safety so it must be political fear.  Well so far no politician has been punished by the voters for passing a marijuana reform bill anywhere.  However I have heard not a few people say they would not vote for this guy or that because they failed to vote for a legalization bill or blocked one.  If they are afraid they need to be afraid not to vote for a bill.

Sadly maybe it’s just arrogance and the inability to admit what they have been told for 79 years about marijuana, information some hung their careers on, was a complete lie. They can’t accept it even when confronted with the evidence, especially when you realize some of our legislators are prosecutors and know better. Hard to accept it even when it comes from the horse’s mouth as it does with the admission by Nixon Aide John Ehrlichman who said in 1994 when asked about it by author Dan Baum and which was published in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine, “You want to know what this was really all about?” Ehrlichman asked. He went on to say, “The Nixon Campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying?   We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or to be black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.  Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The current session of the Assembly is drawing to an end. Should it end without a bill passing it guarantees that approximately 280 of our citizens will die unnecessarily during the next year.  So I must repeat the question in the title, how long must Kentucky’s citizens wait for a medical marijuana bill and how many more of Kentucky’s citizens will die while we wait?

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Blocking Drug Law Reform for a Dead President

The cover story in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine titled, “Legalize it all” with the subtitle “How to Win the War on Drugs” written by Dan Baum recalls an interview with President Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. Mister Baum was asking questions about the politics of drug prohibition and as he tells it, Ehrlichman asked, “You want to know what this was really all about?” He went on to say, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Around this time Nixon had appointed the Shafer Commission to report on the drug situation and to make recommendations. It‘s overall recommendation was the that drugs were a medical problem and not a criminal one.   Nixon felt betrayed by the commission and proceeded to prosecute the prohibitionist policy we have today, besides he had other uses for the ‘War on Drugs’ not the least of which was harassing his political enemies.

The resulting death, destruction and misery caused by this decision cannot be calculated, over 40 years of a war created solely for the benefit of one man and one party with arrest and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of our citizens every year. Over the last 15 years there have been over 600,000 arrests for drugs every year!  Our jails are overflowing with the enemies of the President even decades after Nixon, who gave us this disaster, is dead.

This all begs the question, why are we still persecuting Nixon’s political enemies? There is ample proof this policy was enacted for political reasons and that it’s prosecution is a scam and a total failure. What can be the justification for keeping it going?

Kentucky’s legislators need to explain why, with 75% of our citizens favoring passage of a medical marijuana bill this session, they are blocking reform and why they wish to continue to harass and prosecute Nixon’s political enemies especially since he and his enemies are dead by now?

There is no hiding, there is no justifiable excuse for these legislators to block reform unless, they wish to keep piling on the misery of drug prohibition for their own personal political reasons and care not for the welfare of the citizens they represent!

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“Are We Stupid Or Sumpin’?”

A famous and often repeated question asked of Forest in the movie ‘Forest Gump’ is a question we should be asking ourselves when it comes to getting a handle on our drug problems.

Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky are all in the midst of a heroin/prescription pain medicine crisis and a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths, ( deaths from heroin and prescription pain medicine), in the first year after a State passes a medical marijuana bill. This percentage grows to 33% by the 6th year after passage.  A Cato Institute report shows a 5% drop in suicides in the first year after passage.

Twenty years of the citizens of California accessing marijuana for medical uses has failed to produce any of the predicted harms we have been told for 79 years would happen if marijuana were legal for any reason.

This, coupled with the drop in overdose deaths and suicides certainly supports the concept of marijuana as a safer alternative to other more dangerous drugs both legal and illegal.

With all this in mind one finds it incomprehensible that the legislators of these States are not seriously working on the passage of a medical marijuana bill as fast as possible. Never mind the millions in revenue or the tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of lives depend on the passage of a comprehensive marijuana bill in these States.

Let’s consider the actual numbers for these three States.

Kentucky, in 2014 reported 1077 opioid overdose deaths. 269 of these would not have happened.  Kentucky also reports 701 suicides for 2015.  35 of these would not have happened.

Indiana, in 2014 reported 1172 opioid overdose deaths. 293 of these would not have happened.  Indiana also reported 944 suicides for 2015.  47 of these would not have happened.

Ohio, in 2014 reported 2744 overdose deaths. 686 of these would not have happened.  Ohio also reported 1526 suicides for 2015.  76 of these would not have happened.

In plain terms, had a medical marijuana bill been passed in these States 1406 of our fellow citizens would still be alive today!

How do we morally justify wringing our hands over our overdose epidemic while at the same time we ignore and demonize a policy that can literally save hundreds of lives in these States every year? People are dying right now. We can save a quarter of these lives right now.  If we do nothing, when we can save so many lives we surely must ask ourselves, “Are we stupid or sumpin?”

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Something Can Be Done

We are in the midst of a heroin epidemic started when we cracked down on not only illegal pain medicine use but also legal usage as well by restricting a Doctors ability to prescribe pain medicines. Every day we hear and read stories of the struggle to stop the resulting overdoses caused by the illegal nature of the street market we sent these patients to for relief from their pain.
Forcing patients into the illegal market has resulted in soaring opioid use and overdose deaths with our legislators scrambling to get a hold on this self created disaster. There are ‘Task Forces’ and ‘Outreach’ programs and “crack downs’ on dealers and patient users all to little or no avail.

Overdose deaths are still in the thousands here in Kentucky and a drop of a single death brings stories of possibly getting a drop of 2 deaths if we only try harder. Surely any program that could drop these deaths by a 10 or even 2 % would certainly be jumped on by our legislators, but no. Our legislators are ignoring legislation that can eliminate as much as 33% of these deaths.

The passage of a medical marijuana law creates a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths (deaths from heroin and pain medicines) which grows to 33% by the 6th year after passage. There is also a 5% drop in suicides. Simply put, in Kentucky that would be 285 people who would still be with us had a medical bill been passed last year.

It is morally reprehensible that a legislative action that will save the lives of so many of our citizens is being ignored. Passage of a medical marijuana bill now more than ever should be a priority in the current Assembly. Kentucky lives are being lost as long as nothing is done!

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The Greatest Danger and the Easiest to Fix

For too long we have been told government is not your friend, don’t call on the government they can’t help you. They can help big business but not you! In reality Government is the only entity that can protect the citizenry from the predatory nature of big business. It’s bad enough that many of our politicians are unduly influenced by the enormous sums of money needed to run for office. Now one party’s leading contender is a big business man, and if he or those of his ilk get control of the presidency there will be no protection for the citizenry.

Until we address the problem of poverty and financial inequality in America we will be in danger, a danger more threatening than any outside aggressor!

We should elect someone who is dedicated to solving this problem. All other problems pale in comparison to this one.

We can fix it. Eliminate the cap on taxable income for Social Security currently at 160,000 dollars and raise the tax to 8%. Then lower the age of eligibility to 50 years old. Place a tax on all Stock Market trades of one or 2% and use that money to create a basic citizen stipend equivalent to 3 meals and a place to live say, 1500 to 2000 a month for all from age 21 to 50 as a right of citizenship. This stipend could have a means test to cut costs. For our young citizens we should start an account for all newborns that the government under some kind of formula deposits money into on a regular basis that the child gets when they turn 21 to get started in life. Of course 4 year college tuition would be free as it is in other modern countries, along with single payer health care

There it is. The elimination of poverty in America without taxing the rich at 90%. Think of what freeing our citizens from economic servitude would do. The creative energies of our citizens would change the world. One could dedicate oneself to improving his life and the lives of all if one were not being held in economic servitude.

This is a goal we should all be working toward. We say we are the greatest country in the world. Just saying it don’t make it so. Fact is in the area of caring for our citizens we are way down on the list.

Time the citizens of this country come first instead of last!

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Your State Senator Wants You To Be Paid Less!

Kentucky State Senator Wil Schroder supports a law, SB9, mandating that workers, who would normally be paid by law the ‘prevailing wage’, not be paid the prevailing wage when working on school construction projects to save taxpayer money on these projects. If the workers of Bracken, Campbell and Pendleton counties had any doubt whether Republicans cared about the welfare of their families, they need doubt no longer.  Republicans want their families to give up some of their income to build public school projects. I guess using schools and children somehow makes this theft of the worker’s salaries morally just but I wonder what justification they will use when they try to expand this theft to other projects.

Why do Republicans always place the burden for ‘cutting big government’ on those who make the least?

Here’s an idea! How about a law requiring the Senator and Representative of a District with a public funded project in progress to give up a third of their government and personal salary during the construction phase of the project to help pay for the project.  This will also cut costs and is just as fair to the legislators as SB9 is to the workers.

The prevailing wage is there to insure workers aren’t cheated by being paid less than comparable workers in the same area and was designed to protect them from Contractors who bid on these projects. No one thought they would have to be protected from their own legislators!

SB9 exposes the truth about Republican policy. Unless you are a businessman, government can’t help you.  It’s not government’s job!   The truth is government is the only entity that can protect you from the unjust and predatory nature of business and the free market.  SB9 eliminates that protection.

 

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