Baptist Convention at it Again

Kentucky’s Baptist Convention and its leader Mr. Paul Chitwood bragged at the end of the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly that they were responsible for stopping any cannabis legalization bills from being heard in committee and moving forward. Bills involving cannabis legalization did not progress beyond committee level during that session.

It was pointed out at the time that given the 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths that occurs after the first of cannabis legalization in a State, Mr. Chitwood and his Baptists are also responsible for the deaths that would not have happened had they not blocked cannabis legalization. The 25% drop in deaths means approximately 400 of our citizens would still be alive had they not blocked these bills.

This session Mr. Chitwood and his Baptist Convention are at it again. Cannabis bills for the 2018 session are currently in the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. Sources familiar with the situation report that the Chair of the Committee, Kentucky State Senator Albert Robinson has been told by Republican Senate Leadership not to allow any cannabis bills to be heard by his committee.  Senate Republican leadership is receiving pressure from the Baptist Convention and Mr. Chitwood. Also the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Joe Fischer in whose committee HB 166 a companion medical cannabis bill currently resides, has also been told by leadership not to allow any cannabis bills to be heard and indeed the bill was pulled from the Committee meeting on 14 Feb, 2018.

There was to be a protest at the Veterans Committee hearing on Thursday Feb 15 2018. 22 Kentucky Veterans representing the 22 Veterans who die of suicide nationally every day were to gather at the Veterans Committee hearing and several were to speak.  Senator Robinson at first said he would not allow speakers at the hearing and then cancelled the hearing all together. Veterans gathered anyway and showed their frustration with the lack of progress of these bills.  They met with Governor Bevin who said he would support a republican medical cannabis bill.

Although buoyed by the Governors words, organizers of the Veteran protest were dismayed and are asking how a measure favored by 80% of Kentucky’s citizens could be quashed in such a fashion and say Senate leaders need to clearly explain why they are blocking cannabis measures that are clearly favored by the vast majority of Kentucky’s citizens.

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Meeting the Cannabis Needs of Our Veterans

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial was dedicated in Washington on 5 October 2014. This tribute to the sacrifices of our Disabled Veterans makes note of the enormity of those sacrifices. While giving one’s life for the protection or betterment of others is certainly the greatest sacrifice, the sacrifice of our disabled Veterans goes on for their entire lives ending only at their sometimes untimely deaths.

Think of it the next time you shake the left hand of a Veteran because his right is missing. Think of it when you see Veteran disabled plates on a car in the parking lot at the grocery.   They suffer from post-traumatic stress. They suffer from phantom and chronic pain from loss of a limb or an eye or crushed bones and torn flesh, or as is sometimes true all too often from the loss of their spirit.

Many of these Veterans, thanks to the Federal Government allowing 29 States to experiment, have found healing and comfort from the use of medical cannabis. Veterans, who reside in Kentucky are now asking their legislators to make this medicine available to them by passing a comprehensive cannabis bill this session. Let us be the 30th State to provide them comfort and relief.

In your speeches you all are quick to pronounce that, “our Veterans deserve all we can do for them!” Well Ladies and Gentlemen, your Veterans need access to medical cannabis in a safe and effective way and you folks need to get it to them ASAP! To do any less is not only hypocritical, it dishonors the sacrifice these Veterans make every day they suffer, every day of their lives.

Honor their sacrifice, pass a workable cannabis bill this session.

(speech given at NKY Legislative Forum on 3 Feb 2018)

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The “Let ’em eat cake!” moment of the 21st Century

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley said, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” Senator Grassley’s comment besides being an insult to hardworking Americans, shows a lack of knowledge about basic economics. It also shows the dark heart of the Republican Party.

This is the 3rd time they have pulled off a theft of more than a trillion dollars of the country’s wealth for their wealthy donors and set it up so the bill, (this debt was put on the Government credit card), will be paid by the children of the poor and middle class.

Unless the poor and middle class put their differences aside and vote their financial interests instead of other distractions, Republicans will do it again. They are already saying that the debt, piled up by them in this theft, will make it necessary to cut Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, food stamps etc.

.Remember Mitt Romney’s comment about the 47%? He said that,” 47% of the people would not vote for him, the 47% that were takers.” That 47 % includes retired Government workers, people receiving Social Security, Military Veterans, Cops and anyone receiving money from the Government whether earned or not!

Forget any notion that the Republican Party cares about the country! They only care about the country’s wealth and how much of it that they can steer their way. The top earners on the economic ladder own more than 84% of the country’s wealth as it is now! Republicans want it all and care not whether it hurts the country or your family!

Republicans should remember what happened to Marie Antoinette, and she didn’t even say, “Let them eat cake”!

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What will Be The Next Excuse?

Kentucky State Senator Robert Stivers, when questioned about the legalization of cannabis in Kentucky stated emphatically that he would not support legalization because cannabis is a ‘gateway’ drug. That is a widely debunked theory that once one does a certain drug they inevitably progress to harder drugs.

Mr. Stivers’ position is hard to reconcile with what we now know about the effects of cannabis legalization. Ending cannabis prohibition engenders a significant drop in opioid overdose deaths, as much as 25% after the first year of legalization that grows to 33% by year 6. Cannabis legalization also results in significant revenue and job creation.  With the opioid overdose epidemic raging in Kentucky the Senator’s excuse for opposing legalization is certainly questionable.

The Senator along with Kentucky’s other prohibitionists now have to look for a new excuse for opposing legalization. Last April, as reported in ‘The Hill’ the Federal Government no longer claims that cannabis is a ‘gateway’ drug and no longer claims that cannabis causes brain damage or psychosis.

Recently, in a Louisville courtroom the judge ruled that prohibiting cannabis was in the States interest as it was a hallucinogen and narcotic. Cannabis is neither and as far back as 1988 was ruled by the Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Honorable Francis Young as, “the safest therapeutic substance known to man.”

Currently polling in Kentucky mirrors the national polls with favorability for medical above 80% and for full legalization around 60%. Kentucky’s Legislators need to explain exactly what science supports continuing the failed policy of cannabis prohibition in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  One wonders exactly what excuse Senator Stivers and the prohibitionists in the Assembly will come up with next to keep prohibition going?

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Safest Therapeutic Substance Known to Man

The Ohio city of Mason, along with a number of other cities, is banning Medical Cannabis industry operations, especially pharmacies from operating in their towns. One anti-cannabis advocate in Mason claimed we must protect the children. The same old last ditch cry of those who would continue prohibition.  Another who was interviewed claimed cannabis was a gateway drug that led straight to heroin despite science debunking this myth over and over.  One wonders, do they not want the revenue and jobs this industry has to offer?

This irrational fear of cannabis stems from 80 years of ridiculous and sometimes outright lies foisted on the citizens by the Federal Government in their efforts to continue prohibition.

San Diego also claimed that marijuana pharmacies were a danger to the communities they were in. A study found exactly the opposite.  Cannabis Pharmacies made the areas around them safer.  The study said that the increased security required for these operations actually lowered the crime rate for the areas they were in.

We have hard drug pharmacies everywhere. We have them on almost every corner and alcohol pharmacies in between. We even have them in our grocery stores!  One can pick up a loaf of bread, a six pack of beer, then stop at the pharmacy and pick up your oxycodone and head home.

The damage to our communities from alcohol and drugs is well documented, overdose deaths, domestic violence, traffic fatalities and all manner of disruptions. Cannabis on the other hand is not associated with any kind of violence, or overdose deaths and study after study have shown no connection to fatal traffic accidents or any increase in accidents at all.  The latest Government survey finds teen use down and there is a precipitous drop in opioid overdose deaths where cannabis is available to the citizens so it is hard to imagine what exactly these cities are protecting their citizens from!  The benefits of legal cannabis far outweigh the long debunked imaginary claims spouted by those who have blindly opposed legalization.

A perfect example of this was the October 12, 2017 meeting of the Kentucky Assembly Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection. It was referred to by cannabis activists as the ‘anti-cannabis hearing’. One of the speakers, Commissioner Rick Sanders of the Kentucky State Police, tried to scare the committee members by listing the deaths from Opioid/heroin, then from alcohol and then from tobacco.  Everyone was waiting for him to mention the deaths from cannabis, but he stopped with tobacco.  The reason he didn’t list cannabis deaths?  There aren’t any!  He would have had to say zero and he didn’t want the audience to hear that.

Would that we would accept the ruling in 1988 of The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, when he ruled that cannabis was, “The safest therapeutic substance known to man.”

Colorado has shown that cannabis is not the bogeyman opponents have made it out to be. It is simply a commodity requiring regulation, oversight and competent management based on facts, science and what is best for the citizens, nothing more, nothing less.

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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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