How ‘Bout a Lack of Followship!

President Obama took office in 2009. It has been the stated goal of the Republican body politic to not cooperate with the President on any legislation.  Republican legislators in both the House and Senate have consistently refused to advance any legislation proposed by the President’s or his allies.  Senator Mitch McConnell stated publicly that they should make Mr. Obama’s first term his last.  Even though Mr. Obama won reelection in 2012, Senator Mc Connell has continued this policy of obstruction.

The House of Representatives, despite the efforts of Speaker Boehner to get House members to at least cooperate on some issues, refused his leadership and any cooperation with Democrats or the President. House Republicans fired Speaker Boehner and were set to elect Representative McCarthy until he spilled the beans that the Benghazi hearings were a political stunt to, “bring Hillary’s numbers down, and its working!”  He also revealed while speaking that he couldn’t put a coherent sentence together. Since then, and after much squabbling, House Republicans elected, or should I say begged, Representative Paul Ryan to assume the Speakership.

The great cry from Republicans echoed by Fox News and a hundred conservative news outlets from the beginning of President Obama’s first term is that America is in serious trouble because with the election of Mr. Obama America now lacks leadership. That in itself is an interesting statement coming from Republican Legislators who routinely fire their own leaders immediately after asking to follow them.  One must step back and ask what exactly would qualify as leadership in the Republican playbook?

President Obama has done quite well in steering the battered hulk of the, ‘Ship of State’ left him by President George Bush. The economy is stable after the disastrous collapse of the market on George’s watch.  We have a National Healthcare policy that will eventually, when holdout Republican States finally join in, cover all Americans.  The deficit so vociferously complained about by Republicans has been reduced by half.  President Obama has patched up decades long disputes between America and her neighbors and to top it all off got Bin Laden!

The Congress on the other hand, when faced with a crisis of gun violence has been unable to follow anyone’s suggestions for legislators to confront the problem. Republican House members even tried to undermine the Iran treaty by indicating in writing they would not support any of the treaty’s provisions.

There is much good legislation that would benefit us all. Rather than pick apart those who are trying to help America achieve its aims and goals, we waste time and money stopping ourselves from accomplishing anything! All this leads me to believe it is not a lack of leadership we are suffering from but rather a lack of ‘Followship’!

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Marijuana Legalization, “We’ll Do Something Next Year”.

An Interim Joint hearing of the Licensing and Occupations Committee will be held on 8 July, 2016 focusing on Senate Bill 13, the legalization of marijuana in Kentucky. Long in coming, the Assembly has held many hearings over the last 4 years and as we were told in 2012, we will have interim hearings in the summer and do something next year. This year we have been told the same thing by Senator Schickel, Chairman of the Licensing Committee that, “we will do something next year”.

It is hard to imagine what we could possibly uncover that hasn’t been found by the 26 states and District of Columbia that have already vetted legalizing marijuana. Proof is in the pudding as is said and there’s plenty of proof of the safety and efficacy of marijuana and none of the claimed harms of marijuana we have been subject to have materialized.

I attended what was billed as a ‘Marijuana Summit’ held in Covington Kentucky on 1 Dec 2015. During one segment the host a MR. Tony Coder regaled us with a story about how he broke California law and got a medical marijuana program card to show first, how easy it was to lie and get one, and to show how anyone can get marijuana in a medical marijuana state.

I immediately spoke up and said, “You guys always say that. You always say that the citizens in a medical cannabis state can access marijuana any time they want.” I went on to say, “Ok, I’ll give you that, but then you have to give me this. The citizens of California have had a medical cannabis program since 1996, twenty years!   You must tell me exactly when the harms of marijuana legalization predicted by you guys are gonna show up? How much longer should we wait for these terrible things to rear their ugly heads?

The reality of the citizens of California accessing marijuana for twenty years is ‘nada’, nothing has happened. Not one of the predicted harms have happened. Nor have they happened in any of the 26 States with medical cannabis laws or the states that have passed recreational cannabis laws.

What has happened is truly remarkable. Colorado is a perfect example of what a comprehensive marijuana legalization policy can accomplish. Colorado collected 135 million in taxes from 947 million in sales for 2015. Slightly more than half from recreational sales. More than 20,000 jobs have been created in the industry and these numbers do not take into account the millions in ancillary economic activity driving the state economy.

Legalizing marijuana, an industry that traditionally belongs to Kentucky, has such far reaching benefits for our people it is a wonder we were not the first to legalize rather than being one of the last. Many of our citizens claim they do not trust or believe the federal government, yet on this issue they somehow do, even when the evidence of the Governments deception on this issue is undisputable!

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.”

Let’s stop this ‘drug war game’, take what works best from those who have already legalized and build a program that will revitalize our eastern counties and benefit all our citizens.

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VA Should Go All The Way And Provide Medical Cannabis To Veterans

Memorial Day, the day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the Liberty and continued existence of the Nation. We cannot honor them enough or pay them enough for the gift of their lives to preserve our way of life.

While many Veterans have given their lives, many more live with wounds and disabilities that cause them lifelong pain and suffering. Their struggle goes on day after day and they bear it with dignity and without complaint. They deserve the best that our medical professionals can provide to make their lives as productive and their suffering as bearable as we can make it. The Veterans Administration is dedicated to doing this with all the tools it can muster.

Congress has passed a bill that will allow VA doctors to prescribe medical cannabis and do the paperwork for Veterans in States with medical cannabis programs. Veterans in non-medical cannabis states are left out.

While this is some progress, it is not enough. It is time for the Veterans Administration to establish a program to provide medical marijuana to those Veterans who can benefit from what has proven to be an effective medicine for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and chronic neuropathic pain. These conditions are common among wounded warriors and are only two of the many conditions medical marijuana is effective in treating.

Currently two of America’s closest allies Israel and Canada provide medical marijuana to their Veterans who can benefit from it. Americas Veterans deserve no less than the best care we can offer them. The Veteran’s Administration could very easily provide vouchers to Veteran medical marijuana patients in states that already have medical marijuana laws allowing the Veterans to get their medicine directly from Medical Marijuana Pharmacies. In states without medical marijuana laws the Government could include these Veterans with the patients that are left over from the old Compassionate Care Program, (now called the Investigative New Drug Program), killed by President H.W. Bush. These patients sued when the program was closed to the use of whole plant cannabis and to this day receive a tin of 300 marijuana cigarettes a month from the Governments marijuana farm in Mississippi.

Veterans who suffer daily from the pain of their injuries deserve nothing less than our full dedication to easing their suffering. Medical Marijuana has been fully vetted in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Its ability to positively affect medical outcomes for patients in a variety of illnesses is unquestioned. There is no logical, scientific or moral justification for not providing this medicine to those Veterans who can benefit from it.

These Veterans have given all and those, although injured, who did not die from their service, suffer still and die a little every day. It is our duty and obligation to provide them with all the care and compassion we can muster. To do any less is to betray the very sacrifices they made.

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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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