Hitting the Lottery or “I sent you a Boat!”

The world is watching Colorado and is finding out that everything we have been told by our Government about marijuana has not been factual, to put it nicely.

Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2012 and recreational in 2014. They have paid more than 150 million in taxes on 1.3 billion in sales for 2016 and have created more than 20,000 full time jobs in the process and none of the predicted harms of legalization have materialized.

California has had an easy access medical marijuana program for 20 years and NONE of the terrible things we have been told will happen should cannabis be legal have happened!

All we have to do is copy Colorado’s regs and standards and git on with it!

What in the name of Heaven are we waiting for?

The people in our eastern counties are praying for something to replace the coal industry. God has one ready to go for us and we are ignoring his help! It’s like the old joke about the guy trapped on his roof in a flood. He prays and prays and God comes to him and says God will save him. Later a helicopter comes by and offers to pick the man up. “No, no, thanks anyway but God said he would save me.” After a while a boat comes and offers to pick up the man. Again he says no because, “God will save me.” Later on that night the waters rose and the man drowned. When he gets up to heaven He asks God, “Why, why God, didn’t you save me?” and God replies, “I sent you a boat and a helicopter, why didn’t you get in?”

Let’s take this winning lottery ticket the good Lord has given us, an industry safer and healthier than coal, and do good with it! Alleviate the suffering of our eastern counties, create thousands of jobs, garner millions in revenue, enable billions in economic activity and put that money to work for the citizens of our great state.

It would seem that if we get to the end of this session and nothing is done, one could reasonably conclude the Republican controlled legislature is being derelict in its duty to improve the lives and the well being of our citizens and our state!


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A Private Sector Activity

During the 2016 Presidential campaign and leading right up to the election, Senator Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader in the Senate and Kentucky’s senior Senator campaigned on the idea of a ‘War on Coal’ as the reason for job loss in our eastern counties. He spoke of how Republicans will bring coal jobs back to the State. Imagine the surprise in our eastern counties when old Mitch was recently quoted as saying that job creation was, ‘a private sector activity’. Expressing the idea that government does not create jobs.

Government creates jobs by its very existence and actions. Can Government bring coal jobs back? In a word, no. The market mostly decides what happens in a given industry and automation and cheap gas is ending coal. Are there actions State legislators could take to bring an industry to Kentucky? Yes, legislative action could free an industry from oppressive and unscientific laws and regulations to allow an industry to reach its maximum potential. Is there an industry that could replace or create more jobs and prosperity statewide than the coal industry? Yes there is.

The cannabis industry will create more jobs than trying to save a dying coal industry. All Kentucky’s citizens are waiting for is the Assembly to move forward on cannabis legalization and stand back and let the market grow.

Colorado, for example, has allowed for medical cannabis since 2012 and in 2014 began recreational legalization. The industry in 2015 paid 146 million in taxes on 947 million in sales and has created 18,000 full time jobs in the industry with 2.5 billion in economic activity. Colorado’s population is an estimated 5.5 million and Kentucky’s is 4.5 million. We would probably see an 800 million dollar market with about 2 billion in economic activity. We wouldn’t have to work that hard to set it up. Simply set up a committee to borrow Colorado’s program and adapt it to gain maximum benefit from this lucrative industry. We could be up and running in 2 years if we do it right and before we are done there will be Kentucky cannabis products being sold nationwide!

California’s citizens have had access to cannabis for 20 years and Colorado for 5 years. They have yet to experience any of the terrible things that those who oppose legalization have claimed would happen for the last 80 years. The prohibitionists have been completely wrong about every prediction of doom and gloom if marijuana is legal. Those prohibitionists should have zero credibility on this issue as they have been wrong at every turn and should not even be included in the discussion.

Is job creation a, ‘private sector activity’, as Senator McConnell claims? Certainly when government lets a contract jobs are created. In the case of cannabis, government simply has to follow the science and get out of the way. Kentucky’s newly elected Assembly with a Republican majority has the opportunity to bring a billion dollar industry and more than 15,000 jobs to the state in 2017. They should git to work as soon as the Assembly opens. Our eastern counties are desperately awaiting action and do not want to hear their leaders say job creation is a, ‘private sector activity’ as an excuse to let them down once again!


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Behind the Prohibitionist’s Lies

On November 8th voters in nine states will vote on marijuana legalization.  Five will vote to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and four will vote on legalizing medical use.  To be sure, the opponents of legalization, police and prison guard unions, tobacco and alcohol lobbyists to name a few, will be out in force.  What horrible thing they will proclaim the use of marijuana will cause has yet to be seen.  Whatever it is these prohibitionist warriors have a huge problem and its name is California.

California first legalized the medical use of marijuana in 1996. The citizens have had easy access to marijuana for twenty years and as of now virtually none of the bad things we have been told by our leaders since 1937 that would happen, have happened.  Seems marijuana does not cause schizophrenia, turn people into crazed killers or lead them to do other harder drugs.  Our leaders either purposefully lied or are willfully ignorant.

John Ehrlichman in an article published in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine admitted his culpability in making the War on Drugs a political scam. He was being interviewed by Mr. Dan Baum for the article and Mr. Ehrlichman asked, “You want to know what this was really all about?  The Nixon campaign and the Nixon White House after that had 2 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, 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.”

So which is it, purposefully lying or willfully ignorant because history shows that marijuana prohibition was a political scam beginning with the 1937 Marijuana Tax Stamp Act, and continuing with the modern version the 1970 Controlled Substances Act and subsequent War on Drugs as admitted to by Mister Ehrlichman.

The reality of marijuana legalization can be seen in what has happened in Colorado. They legalized marijuana for medical purposes 13 years ago and recreational use in 2014, and by 2015 the industry was up and running.  To quote Governor Hickenlooper, “Legalization was not as vexing as we thought.”  The first year of full legalization, 2015, saw Colorado collecting 146 million in revenue from 947 million in sales.  They have created 20,000 jobs in the industry and as of May 2016 are on track for more than a billion dollars in sales.  All this and not one of the sort of problems predicted by our prohibitionist warriors and repeated by our leaders have surfaced.  Should California pass recreational legalization, and it looks like they will this year, it will be, as one drug warrior at an anti-marijuana seminar held in Covington, Ky last year said, “  all over folks!”

The citizens of California have had access to marijuana for twenty years and nothing, ‘nada’ has happened! The anti-marijuana crowed has to explain how this is possible.  They also have to admit they were wrong and apologize to the millions of Americans who, over these 80 years, have had their lives ruined behind the prohibitionist’s lies.

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Effective Drug Policy is Possible

The headline of the Kentucky Enquirer editorial of August 26, 2016 was blunt and as loud as it could be, ’78 Ods in 2 Days? Time to Fight Heroin with Money!’ The Editorial went on to bemoan our self-created heroin overdose problem and calls for more money to fight this growing problem.

This echoes our past as the end of alcohol prohibition was preceded by exactly the same kinds of circumstances. Deaths from unregulated alcohol on the black market and a realization that we cannot arrest our way out of the problems caused by alcohol abuse.  Our current policy regarding drugs is one of complete prohibition, as it was with alcohol, accompanied by arrest and incarceration.  Possession of any amount is considered a crime and rehabilitation can be forced.  This policy has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be a complete failure.  Our jails are filled with nonviolent citizens who are further victimized by after prison restrictions and add on punishments, all to no avail. According to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, LEAP, the percentage of the citizens using drugs has basically hovered around 1.3% of the population regardless of the severity of drug prohibition laws.  It was 1.3% when the Harrison Act was passed in 1914, 1.3% when marijuana was made illegal in 1937, 1.3% when the 1970 Controlled Substances Act we operate under today, was passed, and it is 1.3% today.

President Nixon appointed a commission, called the Shafer Commission to study drugs in America and make recommendations. The commission recommended that drugs be treated as a medical and not a criminal problem.  Nixon ignored the Commission’s recommendations and declared the War on Drugs for the purpose of harassing his political enemies. By associating African Americans with heroin and Anti-War protesters with marijuana and criminalizing them heavily they could arrest their leaders and break up their meetings as Nixon aide John Ehrlichman admitted to in a 1994 interview.  So we are currently operating under a failed policy of arrest and incarceration given to us by a troubled and vindictive President solely for political purposes and worst of all we are still at it!

The increasing awareness of the failure of our current policies should cause us to try something new, preferably a policy with a proven track record of success where it has been tried. A good example is stopping overdose deaths. Simply legalizing medical marijuana in a State engenders a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after legalization that grows to 33% by the 6th year after legalization as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There is a successful policy for dealing with hard drug use and addiction and it has a proven track record of success. Portugal in 2001 decriminalized all drugs, as reported by Mr. Glenn Greenwald in Newsweek Magazine in an article titled, ‘What Portugal Can Teach Us About Decriminalizing Drugs’.  Drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but the violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed entirely from the criminal realm.  Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

The data shows that, judged by every measure, Portuguese drug policy has been a huge success and this success should be mirrored by our own drug policies. None of the fears told us by the opponents of this policy have shown their ugly heads and the benefits that were predicted have been substantial.  Drug addiction and usage and their associated problems in the other EU countries has continued to rise. In Portugal, in every significant category, they have either been measurably improved or contained.  Drug usage has decreased even as usage across the EU has increased.

By freeing its citizens from the fear of arrest Portugal has dramatically improved its ability to encourage its citizens to avail themselves of treatment. Resources devoted to arrest and incarceration are now used to provide treatment.  This, along with a shift to harm reduction have improved all drug related problems to include drug caused death and the transmission of disease.

The Portuguese have seen the benefits of decriminalization and there is no political push to return to the old policy. They are unanimous in the belief that this policy has led to a far more effective approach to their addiction problems.

We have the data that proves our current policy does not work. There is a policy that does.  The lives of our addicted sons, daughters, husbands and wives are depending on a policy that works.  What we need now are the Legislators with the foresight and courage to lead us to an effective drug policy and away from the outdated and unsuccessful policy we are now following.

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An Economy That Works For All

I was watching the August 12, 2016 episode of the PBS show, ‘Washington Week’ when one of the commentators mentioned that Hillary Clinton had said she wants,” an economy that works for all.” Mr. Michael Shearer of Time Magazine said, “The economy has never worked for everyone.  I mean it’s possibly the worst political cliché you could offer.”  All the commentators and the moderator scoffed at the notion and noted that the statement was a political mainstay and that one would never see an economy that could work for all our citizens.  One could say that those at the bottom of the economic spectrum are most assuredly counting on an economy that works for all and not just for the privileged few.

Mrs. Clinton is not alone in her belief that we can have an economy that works for all. One of our greatest Presidents, Franklin Roosevelt in his lauded ‘Four Freedoms’ speech most certainly believed in an economy that works for all.  Most people you ask who know of this speech can recall the first 3 but usually have trouble remembering the fourth.  They are Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship, Freedom from fear and the one most people forget, Freedom from want!

Poverty in America is persuasive and 2 Presidents have worked for its elimination directly, Roosevelt and Johnson. Now comes Mrs. Clinton also working to uplift the lives of all our citizens by creating an economy that works for us all.

We can eliminate abject poverty here in America if we choose.  We have both the wealth and the tools.  Here’s how we could do it!  Eliminate the cap on Social Security and raise the tax to 8%.  Lower the eligibility to 50 years old.  Place a 2 or 3% tax on all stock trades and use that money to eliminate tuition at all public colleges and create a citizen stipend equivalent to 3 meals a day and a place to live, say 1500 to 2000 a month for all from age 21 to 49 as a right of citizen ship.  This should have a means test to cut costs.  For our youngest we could create a separate account at birth along with Social Security that grows with the child and they receive when they finish school to get started in life.

There’s a plan that shows an economy working for us all. Guess what would happen to our wealthy citizens if this plan was initiated?  They would still be wealthy!

Mrs. Clinton’s economic plans do not achieve complete elimination of poverty in America but they are certainly a start in the right direction toward an economy that can work for us all and that is not a ‘notion’ to be scoffed at!

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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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