Not taking an action that can provide such benefit in fighting this (opioid) scourge is not only callus and inhuman but also morally indefensible!


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By:  Msgt. Thomas Tony Vance, Alexandria, Ky.

Callus and Morally Indefensible!

Mercy Health Hospitals in an Op-ed in the May 11, 2017 Kentucky Enquirer talks about the opioid epidemic and calls for a multi-pronged approach in dealing with it. Their program of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment, SBIRT, has screened thousands of patients. Unfortunately they do not give any stats that show the program is effective. They also state we should treat addiction as the disease it is. That is exactly what Nixon’s commission on drugs advised back in the early 70s. Instead we got the war on drugs!

As effective as the Mercy Health approach is, there is a more effective action that can drop the number of opioid overdose deaths by more than half. As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, States with medical cannabis laws see a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after legalizing medical marijuana which grows to 33% by year 6. We can cut our opioid overdose deaths by a third simply by legalizing medical marijuana.

In Colorado which has both medical and recreational marijuana legalization, have seen a drop of 66% since medical legalization was approved in 2012. They had 479 opioid overdose deaths for 2015 and that dropped to 442 for 2016.

Let us compare Kentucky and Colorado. Colorado has 5.5 million people and Kentucky has 4.5 million. Colorado has comparable medical and addiction services and is similar to Kentucky in many ways. The only major difference is Colorado has embraced marijuana legalization and Kentucky, even though medical legalization polls at 80% favorability and recreational at 60%, has rejected legalization. Colorado’s numbers for 2015 were 479 and Kentucky’s were 1278, almost 3 times that of Colorado.

Given the facts of the benefits of marijuana legalization in preventing opioid overdose deaths by more than half, as is the case in Colorado, no one can claim to be serious about opioid addiction and overdose deaths without including cannabis legalization as a tool to fight this epidemic. Cannabis legalization, in reality, has a better record of mitigating this epidemic than any other policy that has been tried or is currently in use! I dare our legislators to name another policy that can drop the number of these deaths by a third. They can’t.

Veterans suffering from chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress stop taking an average of 8 different prescriptions for pain meds and meds to deal with the side effects of the various medicines they are given when they start using medical cannabis. Veterans claim far better outcomes than their counter parts who stay on the VA cocktail prescribed for pain and PTSD.

We need credible action to fight this devastating epidemic. What we are currently doing is not effective. Adding addiction services will help but it seems the easiest, most effective and credible action we can take right now is simply to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational uses and watch the numbers fall! Not taking an action that can provide such benefit in fighting this scourge is not only callus and inhuman but also morally indefensible!


KY: Bill to outlaw fentanyl trafficking aired in committee

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For Immediate Release

October 10, 2016

Bill to outlaw fentanyl trafficking aired in committee

GRAYSON—Jessamine County Sheriff Kevin Corman can think of days when Nicholasville has averaged two to four drug overdoses in 24 hours. Much of the blame for that, he told state lawmakers last week, goes to heroin and the abuse of the pain killer fentanyl.

The combination of the two drugs can increase the potency of heroin by up to 50 times, according to drug enforcement agencies. Hundreds of overdoses in central and northern Kentucky in recent months have been attributed to the mixture. Nationwide, more than 29,000 people died from overdoes of heroin and painkillers including OxyContin, hydrocodone or fentanyl in 2014 alone.

And drug use is only part of the problem, Corman told the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on Oct. 7 at Ashland Community and Technical College. The other part is drug trafficking which is extremely lucrative where drugs like fentanyl are involved. A small amount can bring big money on the streets, he explained.

“I read something the other day that you can take $10 of this fentanyl and make $5000 worth on the street,” said Corman.

Nodding in agreement next to Corman was Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear who was at the meeting with State Rep. Russ Meyer, D-Nicholasville, and Rep Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, to support a bill proposed by Rep. Meyer that would add fentanyl analogues, or knock-offs, not approved for human consumption to the list of highly-addictive Schedule I drugs under state law. Schedule I drugs, which include heroin and LSD, have no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.

There are at least 800 known fentanyl analogues and could be 1,000 or more, according to committee testimony.

Calling the drug epidemic “Kentucky’s greatest threat in general,” Beshear covered highlights of the bill which would not only classify fentanyl analogues as Schedule I drugs but make trafficking in any amount of fentanyl or its analogues a Class C felony for the first offense and a Class B felony for the second or subsequent offense. The penalty would be pared down if the person had a “substance use disorder” at the time the offense was committed.  Trafficking 10 grams of more of fentanyl, including fentanyl analogues, would be a Class B felony under the proposal.

Judiciary Committee Co-Chair Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, asked Beshear if substance use disorder as defined in the bill would require a diagnosis or just a court finding. Beshear said the determination would just take a court finding under current language, and Meyer said that could be spelled out in the bill.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, was admittedly emotional when he spoke about the heroin epidemic and its impact on Boone County where he lives. He cast some of the blame on House Bill 463 passed by the 2011 Kentucky General Assembly. The bill, now law for over five years, reduced some drug penalties while moving defendants into drug treatment.

Schickel said Kentucky was below the national average for heroin overdoses in 2009-2010. After HB 463 was signed, he said, the state’s heroin overdoses spiked. He suggested the drug penalties amended by HB 463 be raised back to the level they were at before 2011.

From his perspective, Corman said the issue isn’t just about drug overdoses. It’s about an increase in crime overall which he linked to the drug culture.

“This is getting to the point that probably 90 percent of all crime is related to this problem,” said Corman.  “You look at burglaries, thefts, robberies, a lot of your domestic violence… Somehow we have to put a lid on this and start winning,” he told the committee.

The committee also received testimony on a proposed Reentry Drug Supervision Pilot Program explained by Rep. Lewis Nicholls, D-Greenup, heard a presentation on an evidence-based drug recovery model from the organization Celebrating Families,  and received an update on gross misdemeanors legislation pre-filed for the 2017 legislative session that is similar to a bill considered last session.