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!