Cons of legalizing cannabis outlined at committee meeting; Pro cannabis supporters peeved

10/12/2017 05:05 PM

FRANKFORT – Whether or not cannabis should be legalized for medicinal and or recreation use was discussed on Thursday during the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection meeting on Thursday.

Officials against legalizing cannabis in Kentucky presented statistics from Colorado, which legalized the recreational use of the drug in 2013. They say the saw the number of youths using marijuana in 2015 was 54 percent higher than the national average.

However, according to a December 2016 article in the Washington Post, the state-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 18.35 percent of Coloradans ages 12 to 17 had used marijuana in the past year in 2014 or 2015, was down sharply from 20.81 percent in 2013/2014.

Legalization supporters have long argued that the best way to prevent underage marijuana use is to legalize and regulate the drug.

National Marijuana Initiative Director Ed Shemelya, warned committee members that he feels like marijuana use would increase among youths if it is legalized.

“What I can guarantee will happen is that our youth will use cannabis, and they will use it at alarming rates,” Shemelya said. “Not only 12 to 17 year-olds, but 18 to 25 year-olds, and 26 and above.”

Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram had concerns about the state bringing in additional revenue, should they legalize cannabis, on the backs of its citizens who will deal with the ramifications of using cannabis.

“Thirty years ago, Big Pharma told us that there was no risk of addiction, we could prescribe opiates very liberally and you see where that brought us, the largest drug epidemic in our nation’s history,” Ingram said. “Wall Street is telling us the same thing about recreational marijuana. You can use the tax dollars. People can’t get addicted, nobody overdoses, and it’s not true.”

Before the meeting at a press conference held by proponents on legalizing cannabis, Dan Seum Jr., who is a director of Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana expressed his concern about the makeup of the panel who testified at the meeting.

“The panel who will be attempting to educate our elected members of the committee are all opponents of cannabis,” Seum said. “I believe the panel are good people who are wrong in their approach to cannabis.”

Retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Justin Lewandowski of Paintsville, painted a bleak picture of many veterans who have been overly prescribed opiates and become addicted, and how cannabis can be a better alternative to treat their conditions.

“Veterans need cannabis,” Lewandowki said. “We’re overly prescribed medicine too often. I was prescribed 23 medications, I was taking over 100 pills a day, and I held gun to my head, I was suicidal, homicidal, they made me sick.”

Rep. Dan Johnson, R-Mount Washington, expressed concern that so many people, who could be helped with medicinal marijuana, can’t be helped because it has not been legalized for medicinal purposes.

“It’ inhumane for us to allow as many folks to die in our state from drug overdoses and heroin and act like there’s something wrong because some other preacher at some church says it’s wrong,” Johnson said. “Why don’t you get the facts? The facts is that it’s not killing people in Colorado.”

Gov. Matt Bevin said earlier in the week during a radio interview that he would never sign a bill allowing recreational marijuana to be legal in Kentucky.


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