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Secretive investment group sought Indiana marijuana business


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Tony Cook , tony.cook@indystar.com 6:06 a.m. ET April 16, 2017

Some of Indiana’s best-known former legislators and lobbyists joined a secret investment company that several investors say was formed to cash in if marijuana was ever legalized in Indiana.

Some of Indiana’s most influential lobbyists and political operatives joined a secretive investment company that several partners say has worked for years to cash in on the potential legalization of marijuana in Indiana.

The company, Hoosier Emerging Technologies, was created in late 2012 and is registered to Jim Purucker, one of the state’s most prominent alcohol and gaming lobbyists. Two investors in the company told IndyStar the primary aim was to influence legislation that would enable it to secure a place in the lucrative marijuana market.

The people Purucker recruited to invest in the company are a veritable who’s-who of top Indiana powerbrokers — Democrats and Republicans — an IndyStar investigation has found.

Among them: Former Indiana House speakers, former state campaign chairmen for Barack Obama and Donald Trump, high-powered lobbyists and some of the state’s most prolific political fundraisers. However, not all of them said they were aware of the company’s marijuana ambitions.

It does not appear the company and its investors broke any laws. Still, government accountability advocates worry that such a secretive alliance of insiders with undisclosed financial interests in legislation could undermine an already cynical public’s faith in state government.

“It’s everything you don’t want in government,” said Zachary Baiel, president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government.

He and other government watchdogs said the situation reinforces their calls for more transparency and disclosure in state government.

Legislative leaders also expressed concerns.

“It bothers me a great deal,” Senate leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said in response to IndyStar’s findings. “It would appear that there were people trying to surreptitiously insert language to help create a monopoly. … It bothers me that people might be trying to manipulate the law for their own financial benefit.”

Purucker declined to comment for this story.

Three investors and another source familiar with the company told IndyStar that Purucker’s pitch was simple: Buy at least a single $1,000 share and you could hit the jackpot if marijuana becomes legal.

Only one of those sources agreed to speak publicly about the company.

“It had to do with an opportunity to make money with this company if marijuana was ever legalized in this state,” said investor Kip Tew, a former Indiana Democratic Party chairman who served as Obama’s campaign chairman in Indiana.

Tew and others said details about how the company would make money under such a scenario were vague.

“What was told to me was that the entity I invested in was going to invest in another entity that was going to provide some service to the distributors or retailers like in other states where it was legalized,” Tew said.

Three other investors told IndyStar they were unaware of the company’s marijuana ambitions.

The company was such a closely held secret that leaders of the General Assembly said they were unaware of its existence, even as some with an interest in the company advocated for language that found its way into bills and, in some cases, into law.

That legislation included the state’s controversial vaping law that took effect last year. It effectively made a single Indiana security company, Lafayette-based Mulhaupt’s Inc., the sole gatekeeper of the vaping industry. The regulatory framework established in the vaping law could eventually be used if marijuana was legalized in Indiana, according to two investors who requested anonymity

Tew and other investors said they did not know if Hoosier Emerging Technologies’ intent was to invest in Mulhaupt’s.

Mulhaupt’s owner Doug Mulhaupt did not return multiple messages left at his office, with his lobbyist and with a PR firm the company hired.

It is unclear exactly how many investors Purucker recruited, though several investors said there may have been dozens, including members from most large lobbying firms in Indianapolis.

The involvement of so many Statehouse influencers made it difficult for some opponents of the vaping legislation to find representation at the Statehouse, said Evan McMahon, whose group Hoosier Vapers fought against the legislation, but was unaware of Hoosier Emerging Technologies until recently.

“In 2015, when this first came up, we tried to find a lobbyist to represent our industry and every single person we talked to said they had a conflict,” he said.

At that time, McMahon said, he did not know there was what he described as “a shadow cabal working together for years.”

Dealing among friends

While some investors told IndyStar that HET’s focus was marijuana, another said vaping was key to the company’s plans.

“What I thought they were doing, as far as I know, is try to get a lock on the vapor thing,” said investor Rex Early, a former Indiana Republican Party Chairman who served as Trump’s campaign chairman in Indiana.

He said he bought a $1,000 share of the company, but emphasized that he didn’t know about any marijuana connection.

“I never heard that,” he said. “I’m not a big marijuana guy. Do not put me in there as promoting marijuana.”

Former Indiana House Speaker Mike Phillips, now a lobbyist, acknowledged he and his son also put money into the company, but he also said marijuana was never discussed with him.

“We were of the mind it had to do with the high-tech development of the systems used in racetracks,” he said recently while sitting on a bench outside House Speaker Brian Bosma’s office.

Paul Mannweiler, another former House Speaker-turned-lobbyist who advocated for the vaping law, said neither vaping nor marijuana were discussed when he decided to put money into the company.

“I guess it could have included buying the USA TODAY, I don’t know,” he said, referring to the national news outlet owned by IndyStar’s parent company.

When asked how HET’s prospectus described the investment, he said he was “dealing among friends” and didn’t “remember reading anything.”

“I think Jim just said he was getting a group together,” he said. “I’ve worked with Jim on a number of issues. He’s a friend that I know to be a good person.”

Harmful side effects?

Two sources familiar with the company say many of its concepts were discussed informally over drinks at the Winner’s Circle, an off-track betting parlor in Downtown Indianapolis and a frequent hangout for lobbyists and lawmakers.

Purucker and his longtime client Rod Ratcliff were always at the center of the discussions, which typically took place in the betting parlor’s private Triple Crown Club, the sources said. Ratcliff is the chief executive of Centaur Gaming, which owns the Winner’s Circle and Indiana’s two horse track-casinos in Anderson and Shelbyville.

The off-track betting facility was an appropriate place to plan what was essentially a long shot gamble on marijuana legalization in staunchly conservative Indiana. Long and Bosma have consistently opposed legalizing even medical marijuana.

Some people with a stake in the company made several unsuccessful legislative attempts to create a license to distribute marijuana in 2013 and 2014. After that, Purucker and several other lobbyists with ties to Ratcliff and his Centaur Gaming company launched a massive lobbying effort in favor of the 2015 and 2016 vaping legislation.

Ratcliff did not return several messages from IndyStar. But a Centaur spokeswoman sent IndyStar a statement: “Neither Centaur Holdings, LLC, nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, has an affiliation with the vaping industry. Centaur has neither sole nor partial ownership of any licensees or entity related to the manufacture, distribution or security of vaping products. Our sole focus remains to provide our guests with the best value in gaming, racing, dining and entertainment.”

None of the high-powered lobbyists pushing for the vaping law — Purucker, Mannweiler, Brian Burdick and Kenneth Cragen — listed Hoosier Emerging Technologies as a client or employer. They listed their efforts under Indiana Vapor Company. Burdick did not return messages from IndyStar. Cragen declined to discuss his role.

Their efforts culminated in the vaping law that took effect last year and gave Mulhaupt’s sole discretion over who could seek a license to manufacture e-liquid.

Mulhaupt’s chose to work with only six companies, many with past ties to Centaur or current ties to the liquor industry.

As a result, prices skyrocketed and scores of vapor shops and manufacturers were forced to close or leave the state. The unusual nature of the law also drew attention from the FBI, which opened an investigation to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

The FBI has not commented on the status of the investigation or its targets.

IndyStar reported last month that the vaping law shared a common feature with draft legislation from 2013 that would have legalized medical marijuana. Both included security firm requirements that gave Mulhaupt’s a distinct advantage.

“It’s everything we always had a gut feeling about,” said Amy Lane, whose Indiana Smoke Free Alliance represents many small vapor shops and manufacturers that lost business because of the legislation. “This wasn’t for public health and safety. It was about lining somebody’s pockets. It’s disgusting, really. It’s disgusting that people are allowed to behave this way at the expense of small businesses.”

She said 60 vapor retail locations and 46 manufacturers have closed since the vaping law went into effect last summer. Wholesale prices for e-liquid have shot up 45 percent, she said.

A matter of disclosure

Lawmakers are now in the midst of overhauling that law. Senate Bill 1 would get rid of the security firm requirements and other portions of the law that a federal court found to be an unconstitutional barrier to interstate trade.

The House and Senate passed slightly different versions of the bill and must work out their differences before the 2017 legislative session ends Friday.

But fixing the vaping law is only the beginning of the work lawmakers need to do if they want to restore public faith in the General Assembly, said Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, a government accountability group.

“We are at a point in time when the public is cynical, and things like this confirms their belief that there is a small group of insiders who inflict their will on the General Assembly and usually with a profit motive behind it,” she said. “This is another example of why we need sweeping reform.”

The secretive nature of the company was enabled in part because of what some open government experts say is a gap in Indiana’s ethics rules. Lobbyists in Indiana do not have to disclose which lawmakers they lobby or any of their communications with those lawmakers. In fact, they are only required to list the general topic of their lobbying, not the specific piece of legislation they are trying to influence.

At least 13 other states require lobbyists to disclose more specific information about their activities, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group that advocates for transparency in government.

Lawmakers had an opportunity earlier this year to make interactions between lobbyists and lawmakers more transparent, but took a pass.

Senate Bill 289, authored by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, would have required lobbyists to keep a log of all communication with lawmakers, making their emails, texts and social media correspondence a matter of public record. The bill also would have made it illegal for lawmakers to accept gifts from lobbyists.

The measure never got a hearing.

“If the public needed another reason to have access to their legislator’s e-mails, this would be one to add to the ever growing list,” said Baiel, president the Indiana Coalition for Open Government. “Public policy should be made in the light of day and on the record. For posterity. If we cannot reconstruct how bills are made, how can we trust the outcomes of the legislation?”

About Hoosier Emerging Technologies

Hoosier Emerging Technologies was created Dec. 11, 2012, and registered as a limited liability corporation with the Indiana secretary of state’s office.

Company president: Jim Purucker. He is a longtime casino and alcohol lobbyist. He pushed for Indiana’s vaping law. His clients include the Indiana Vapor Co., Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Indiana, Indiana Towing and Wrecker Association and the Indiana Motor Truck Association. He also represents New Centaur, the casino and horse-racing business led by Rod Ratcliff.

Purpose: Some investors said company’s goal was to establish a foothold in Indiana’s marijuana market when it became legal.  Others said the company aim was to make money off the vaping industry or develop horse-racing technology.

Among the investors

• Kip Tew, former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman who was President Barack Obama’s campaign chairman in Indiana, and is now a Statehouse lobbyist for Ice Miller. That law firm represents many of Indiana’s largest and most influential companies. Tew said making money off legalized marijuana was HET’s aim. 

• Two other investors, who requested anonymity, also said the company was planning to capitalize on the eventual legalization of marijuana.

• Rex Early, former Indiana Republican Party Chairman who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in Indiana. He said he was not aware of any company effort on marijuana and thought it was focused on the vaping industry.

• Paul Mannweiler, former Republican Indiana House speaker who is now a lobbyist at Bose Public Affairs Group. He also lobbied on the vaping law. Bose’s clients also include some of the state’s largest and most influential corporations. Mannweiler said neither vaping nor marijuana were discussed when he decided to put money into Hoosier Emerging Technologies.

• Mike Phillips, former Democratic House speaker who is now a lobbyist at the Statehouse. His lobbying firm, Phillips & Phillips, represents clients such as tobacco and pharmaceutical industries. He also represents New Centaur, the casino and horse-racing business led by Rod Ratcliff. 

Another player

Rod Ratcliff, Centaur Gaming CEO. Two sources familiar with the company say he was involved with Hoosier Emerging Technologies. That involvement included, at the very least, discussions at the Winner’s Circle about Hoosier Emerging Technologies and possible marijuana-related legislation.

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Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures


By Reid Wilson – 01/13/17

Marijuana reforms flood state legislatures

Legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced measures to loosen laws restricting access to or criminalizing marijuana, a rush of legislative activity that supporters hope reflects a newfound willingness by public officials to embrace a trend toward legalization.

The gamut covered by measures introduced in the early days of legislative sessions underscores the patchwork approach to marijuana by states across the country — and the possibility that the different ways states treat marijuana could come to a head at the federal Justice Department, where President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general is a staunch opponent of legal pot.

Some states are taking early steps toward decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. In his State of the State address this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he will push legislation to remove criminal penalties for non-violent offenders caught with marijuana. 

“The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York State, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety,” Cuomo’s office wrote to legislators. “The unnecessary arrest of these individuals can have devastating economic and social effects on their lives.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said during his campaign he would support decriminalizing marijuana. Legislation has passed the Republican-led state House in recent years, though it died when Sununu’s predecessor, now-Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), said she did not support the move.

Several states are considering allowing marijuana for medical use. Twenty-eight states already have widespread medical marijuana schemes, and this year legislators in Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah have introduced bills to create their own versions. Republicans in control of state legislatures in most of those states are behind the push.

Legislators in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico and New Jersey will consider recently introduced measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use. 

There is little consensus on just how to approach legalization: Three different bills have been introduced in Connecticut’s legislature. Two have been introduced in New Mexico, and three measures to allow medical pot have been filed in Missouri.

In 2016, voters in four states — Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California — joined Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado in passing ballot measures legalizing pot for recreational purposes. Those efforts, marijuana reform advocates say, have lifted the stigma legislators might have felt.

“Now that voters in a growing number of states have proven that this is a mainstream issue, many more lawmakers feel emboldened to champion marijuana reform, whereas historically this issue was often looked at as a marginalized or third-rail issue,” said Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.

Just because measures get introduced does not mean they will advance. In many cases, Angell said, it is governors — Democrats and Republicans alike — who stand in the way.

Though Democrats control the Connecticut legislature, Gov. Dan Malloy (D) has made clear he is no supporter of legalized pot. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) has not said he would veto a legalization bill, though he is far less friendly to the idea than his predecessor, Democrat Peter Shumlin.

In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has called decriminalizing marijuana a “horrible, horrible idea.” Democratic legislators are considering a plan to put legal marijuana to voters, by proposing an amendment to the state constitution. If New Jersey legislators advance a legalization law, they would run into an almost certain veto from Gov. Chris Christie (R).

While 14 state legislatures have legalized marijuana for medical use, no state legislature has passed a measure legalizing pot for recreational use.

“Every year, we’ve seen legalizers throw everything at the wall to see what might stick,” said Kevin Sabet, who heads the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. “I’m not surprised by any means. I don’t think there’s much appetite to legalize through the legislature.”

Sabet conceded that efforts to stop legalization movements in Vermont and Rhode Island may be difficult. He said decriminalization measures can be smart and effective, if they include provisions boosting funding for treatment and prevention, but he warned that decriminalization bills can be a first step toward looser rules.

“The kind of decriminalization that legalization folks want is a stepping stone,” Sabet said. “Their prize is certainly full legalization. I don’t think they’re going to stop at decriminalization.”

In Washington, the incoming Trump administration has sent signals that encourage, and worry, both supporters and opponents of looser pot rules. The Obama Justice Department issued a memorandum to U.S. attorneys downplaying the importance of prosecuting crimes relating to marijuana in states where it is legal.

Trump’s nominee to head the next Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), has been sharply critical of states that have legalized marijuana. In his confirmation hearings this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said current guidelines, known as the Cole memo, are “truly valuable.”

Marijuana industry advocates seized on those comments in hopes of locking Sessions into maintaining the status quo.

“The current federal policy, as outlined by the Cole memo, has respected carefully designed state regulatory programs while maintaining the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing criminals and prosecuting bad actors,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Congress in recent years has passed a rider to appropriations bills that has blocked the Justice Department from taking action against states where pot is legal. But that could change, now that Republicans control the House, Senate and White House.

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If Kentucky wants to pass br 161 "the Cannabis Freedom Act", you must do this now…


TREELeft:  Link to USMjParty Kentucky

Above: Link to Facebook Page of the “Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition”

Because of the “Origination Clause” in the U.S. Constitution there must be a Representative to submit a “Companion Bill” in order for it to move forward because this clause says that all bills for raising revenue must start in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as in the case of other bills.

(From Wikipedia) The Origination Clause, also known as the Revenue Clause, is as follows:

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

COMPANION BILL – A bill which is identical to a bill having been introduced in the opposite house.

THEREFORE,

What we need to do right now is to find a Representative who is willing to back up Sen. Perry B. Clark’s BR 161 with a “COMPANION BILL” in order to be in coordination with the “Constitution”.

Please write your Representative an email or letter asking them to get behind Sen. Perry B. Clark’s BR 161 and provide a “Companion Bill” as soon as possible because the Legislative Session (calendar link here) starts on January 5th, 2016 and January 8th, is the deadline for prefiled House Bills.

The LINKS you will need are listed here (just click on picture):

LINK to KY BR 161

KyLRC 12.17.15 Ky Cannabis Freedom Act homepage

LINK to KY Legislator’s Email Addresses:  (Please note that some of the Representatives/Senators have direct email links, and some of them can be copied/pasted into your email program).

KY Legislative Email Addresses

Also, of note, this is a little more time consuming, but worth it, I believe —  When I wrote my “Email” I sent it to my individual Representative, who is Johnny Bell – in Glasgow, KY, but I also copied the email to ALL of the Kentucky Senators as well as the Representatives, so that THEY ALL would be able to see the letter I had written.

Here is the LINK to the 2016 Legislative Calendar:

KY 2016 Regular Session Legislative Calendar

As well, anyone who may have a printer, and postage money available should ideally send individual letters through the U.S. Postal Service to the Representatives given addresses.  The more “paper” we can send them, the better they will hear us speaking!

PHONE CALL’s as well will be a great help!  Please back up your letter or email with a phone call to your Representative to reiterate the issue of BR 161 !!!

PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS BILL DIE!   KEEP IT GOING WITH AN EMAIL AND A PHONE CALL TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY!

"Commonsense criminal justice reform”


Red VanWinkle

December 26 at 12:59pm

As we near Kentucky’s 2015 Legislative session. I would like to bring special attention to a topic of our KY Legislators. There is so many topics for our Legislators to consider during the annual session, it would be hard to not miss something here or there. So to be sure the tax dollars spent to obtain this information, isn’t being missed, I will be giving a friendly tag to several KY legislators on this post.

Please feel free to thank our Legislators for their up coming hard work. I would also encourage every Kentuckian to share this post, and/or tag as many KY legislators as possible in the comments.

This post topic will be on the current Legislative topic of, "Commonsense criminal justice reform". Closely related to the 2011 enacted KY HB 463.

The Kentucky Criminal Justice Council met September 17, 2014 at the Justice Cabinet in Frankfort, KY.
The following agencies made presentations at the meeting detailing the impact of the 2011 KY HB 463 on their respective areas:
•Department of Corrections
•Department of Public Advocacy
•Administrative Office of the Courts
•Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
•Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys Association

Public Advocate Ed Monahan, who serves on the Council, presented 10 ways to reduce waste in Kentucky’s criminal justice system and reduce costs for counties and the state: to be associated with 2011 KY HB 463.
The 10 recommendations was:

1.Reclassifying minor misdemeanors to violations
2.Creating "gross misdemeanor" classification for low level felonies
3.Promoting employment/reducing recidivism by creating Class D felony expungement
4.Reducing days in the county jail by creating "clear and convincing" standard for the pretrial release decision
5.Modifying violent offender and PFO statutes
6.Presuming parole for eligible low-risk offenders
7.Providing alternative sentencing plans for flagrant non-support instead of imprisonment for felony
8.Creating alternatives to incarceration
9.Increase the felony theft limit from $500 to $2,000
10.Reducing waste by limiting capital prosecutions.

I would like to reference the first of these recommendations to: Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy’s, letter to Subcommittee on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act, last updated on the state’s website 3/6/2012.
The section where Chapter 218A (i.e. Kentucky Drug Laws) should be Rewritten to Reflect Modern Drug Realities.

The section states;
"KRS Chapter 218A, the Controlled Substances Act, was originally passed as law in 1972, prior to the current Kentucky Penal Code, KRS Chapters 500 to 534. Many of its criminal statutes have been added or amended since its creation, but no comprehensive reform has been approved in almost 4 decades. Almost all of the amendments or additions have resulted in longer sentences for a greater variety of drug activity and the time has come to review the Chapter as a whole to see if it reflects current societal desires for the criminal prosecution of drug activity. Upon review, many provisions should be changed or removed."
Then the letter presents a list of researched recommendations.

With the second of those recommendations(labeled "B") stating;
" Reduce possession of marijuana to a violation, punishable by fine only"

Marijuana possession is the lowest KY criminal misdemeanor, then shouldn’t it be lowered to a violation only? .Reclassifying minor misdemeanors to being only violations, was the number one recommendation made by Public Advocate Ed Monahan, who serves on the Council, during the Kentucky Criminal Justice Council meeting, Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at the Justice Cabinet in Frankfort, KY.

With the 2011 KY HB 463, Marijuana possession was lowered with a max of 45 day’s in jail, and/or a $250 max fine. With provisions, that an officer does not have to arrest the person on the spot, if the officer feels the person will show up for court, and there are no other charges/issues.

The reasons behind all this discussion may surprise people. The facts are: the KY total crime rate between 1985-2012 has decreased 6%, with the violent crime rate dropping 27%. Yet the KY incarceration rate has increased by a shocking 281%. These numbers is accredited to research done by The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. Which was published in their publication "The Advocate" dated March 2014.

The KY laws need to be updated to the current era.
One of the topics being discussed is raising the felony theft amount. I had seen where this was explained . The explanation included this: A person who steals an ipad, needs to be punished, but 5 to 10 years incarceration is way to much. So yes the felony theft amount should be raised to meet current inflation. As many other states have done. Kentucky needs to do a little catching up.
The same logic should apply to a person convicted of Marijuana possession. A victimless act should not carry jail time.

Many other states, including Washington D.C., only imposes a non criminal fine for simple Marijuana possession. While even more states, have Medical Marijuana/Regulated recreational use legalized. This posses an unjust hardship on Kentucky citizens, and their communities.

By keeping Marijuana possession a criminal charge, we are creating a criminal lifestyle for many of the offenders convicted of simple Marijuana possession. This over penalty creates criminals, out of otherwise law abiding citizens.Just as what was happing during the Alcohol prohibition.

In the same "March 2014 edition of The Advocate publication", the article states "There is a safe, less costly way forward".

We can’t afford to stay on the current path. We are spending about $46 per day per inmate.
For instance, if 5000 people serve just 10 days of the 45 day max for Marijuana possession, the cost is an estimated about $2,300,000. Just not worth the cost. Yet, if KY enacts the payable violation option(which has been recommended by the Kentucky Department of Advocacy), there would be a positive revenue. Revenue that could be earmarked for Drug prevention/education, and Law Enforcement.

I personally feel as one Rep stated on the house floor during the passage of the 2011 KY HB 463. This was a great step, and I too look forward to this second part of this measure to correct the current issues at hand.

A criminal possession of Marijuana conviction devastates a person’s ability to get a job and meet their obligations; a victimless act should not carry this life sentence. I truly hope everyone can see this issue, and react to correct the unjust burden placed on Kentuckians, and their communities.

I tagged the Legislator in my original post, on my profile page

Thank you all for your continued support ,’-) Aihooooo