GUEST OP-ED: Time to rethink Kentucky’s marijuana laws
Kentucky is already a marijuana state; we just have chosen the least effective way to manage that fact, causing incalculable harm and missing practically all the benefits of embracing a natural advantage at our fingertips.
As our nation quickly approaches three dozen states with at least some form of legal marijuana production, our Commonwealth wastes money chasing people it can’t catch growing a medical crop it mostly can’t benefit from, serving a decades old propaganda scheme it doesn’t really take seriously. People with epilepsy, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, depression, cancer and arthritis seeking relief with cannabis risk not only arrest attempting to make a purchase, they face uncertain quality or effectiveness from sources stuck in the shadows while residents of three neighboring states already benefit from well established science ensuring results and safety.
Spending limited available police resources hunting marijuana plants and imprisoning growers and consumers will never make a dent in anything except our economy. Attempting to avoid detection and prosecution inspires real criminal activity, creating potential for far more danger than a few plants. People caught in this web of official ineptitude then face being removed from the workforce for an extended period and then labeled a convict forever, further limiting their productivity. If we want to improve the fight against crime, ending the war on cannabis is a great place to start. Maybe we could even put that money back into police pensions in order to keep our protectors on their real job without the distraction of prosecuting medicine.
Probably the oldest and most-accepted criticism of legal cannabis is that it is a “gateway drug.” But this rationale fails on two points in terms of justifying continued government prohibition. Colorado has seen a significant drop in opioid overdose deaths as its marijuana production has grown. Kentucky is going in the opposite direction. The myth of marijuana overdosing is just that: a myth. In fact, the greatest risk in youthful experimentation with marijuana probably comes from what passes for “drug education” in schools now. Our children are told that all illegal “drugs” are unsafe. If they try marijuana anyway and find it to be relatively mild, the temptation then is to think they may have been misled about harder substances too, sometimes with disastrous results. In fact, legal marijuana production could easily finance a public education campaign with facts from scientists about overuse rather than hoping that somehow black market dealers — or maybe Google — will provide education on responsible use.
Lots of Kentuckians would be surprised to know how many of their friends and neighbors use marijuana responsibly. Government prohibition is full of unintended consequences. People who can benefit from purely medical use face real fear from law enforcement, while being forced to weigh that against their health and well-being. Prohibition encourages unscrupulous dealers, who might not concern themselves with poor quality product damaged by pesticides, mixed with other substances or cultivated incorrectly to address intended health benefits.
Herbal Healing is a marijuana dispensary in Colorado Springs, Colorado run by Kentuckians. They moved there to set up and run a successful business serving people who get to benefit by the transparency of their public business. Their salaries support their families and their profits help grow other businesses around them. We aren’t stopping operators who would be like them with our laws, but we are limiting their ability to strengthen our communities by making them hide their activities. We already have a big enough problem of gifted Kentuckians leaving our state to seek better opportunities elsewhere. Marijuana prohibition is an outdated, failed, totally ineffective policy. End it now.
David Adams does financial consulting for businesses and individuals throughout Kentucky. He has written and been featured in local and national media for several years including the January 2018 Washington Post Magazine.