Central Kentucky pioneer in natural foods now making hemp chocolates

WINCHESTER, Ky. (WKYT)- If there is one place Laura Freeman feels most at home, it’s the farm.

“Hello guys,” said Laura Freeman.

Freeman grew a small, family cattle operation at Mt. Folly Farm in Clark County into a multimillion-dollar beef company. She started it when she was just 22-years-old.

“After I graduated from college I was a little bit of a hippy and organic farmer,” said Freeman.

Freeman became a pioneer with her company in 1985, choosing to raise antibiotic and hormone free cattle, which was unheard of at the time.

“And I thought, you know if people really knew about this they would change. So we started Laura’s Natural Beef, but it didn’t sell, and that was back in the time everyone was trying to reduce their fat content, and we changed the name to Laura’s Lean Beef,” Freeman explained.

She manned the business for 23 years until selling Laura’s Lean Beef in 2008 and retiring to Martha’s Vineyard. She realized though she still had more ideas to harvest and made the decision to come home to Kentucky. Her daughter, who she says is much like her, had already planted the seed of what might be next.

“She is a hippy like you wouldn’t believe, and so she had gotten the whole farm certified organic, and she had gotten us in the hemp program,” said Freeman.

The first crop, Freeman says was a gamble and the harvest wasn’t much, but it was enough to get her thinking. She went back to what she knew, food.

“So I took a look at the hemp seeds, their nutritional profile and realized that maybe I could make healthy chocolate and healthy candy like healthy beef,” said Freeman.

After some trial and error, a little experimenting and a lot of taste testing she found herself at Ruth Hunt in Mt. Sterling making Laura’s Hemp Chocolates.

“People are a little suspicious about the hemp, is it going to make me high and am I going to fail a drug test? I say no, it’s hemp grain. It is omega 3’s, omega 6’s, antioxidants, but it’s not marijuana,” said Freeman.

Her first batch of candy made of hemp seed, chocolate, cranberries, and raspberries hit store shelves in 2016.

“It’s a big stretch from beef to chocolate, or is it a stretch,” questions Amber Philpott.

“It’s not because you know in both situations I took something that people like, but is not particularly healthy and in our chocolate, I’m using no milk chocolate, no high sugar,” said Freeman.

Healthy sweet treats are just the start for Freeman.

She has renovated a 1785 cabin on the farm and turned it into a B & B, powered by new age solar panels. She has opened Laura’s Mercantile to sell her goods both on the farm and online, and she has one more plan coming for Clark County.

“Then I bought some property in downtown Winchester which we are making into a distillery,” said Freeman.

Next up growing heritage grains that will be used to make the moonshine for the distillery. And eventually, she says she will offer tours to promote agri-tourism.

Laura Freeman paved the way for organic farmers long before it was hip, decades later this self-proclaimed hippy turned successful businesswoman is still putting the environment first.

“I like a good fight, and it’s a fight you need to be in right now, we’ve got to fight for the Earth,” said Freeman.

Laura Freeman says she has another idea up her sleeve for another edible, maybe a candy bar she says. Her candy can be found at Kroger, online and at Ruth Hunt. As for that moonshine distillery, she hopes to have it up and running this coming spring, and she has created the moonshine trail that she hopes will be an economic engine in our area.

CONTINUE READING AND TO VIDEO!

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RJ Corman Railroad Group in Nicholasville Creates New Apprenticeship Program

Kentucky United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Labor Cabinet

Matthew G. Bevin, Governor

Derrick K. Ramsey, Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Alex Englen
(502) 564-0582
Alexandria.englen@ky.gov

RJ Corman Railroad Group in Nicholasville Creates New Apprenticeship Program

Frankfort, Ky. (December 6, 2017) – Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey joined officials from RJ Corman Railroad Group in Nicholasville today to announce the creation of a new apprenticeship program.

This four-year Registered Apprenticeship focuses on developing skills as an electrician. Apprentices will receive 2,000 on-the-job and 144 classroom training hours per year and will earn a nationally recognized journeyman certificate upon completion of the program.

“In Kentucky today, employers are facing a shortage of a skilled workforce,” said Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey. “Registered Apprenticeships are the answer to this problem and businesses like RJ Corman are reinforcing their commitment to develop and retain more highly-skilled talent through these programs. I applaud RJ Corman for taking steps to bring more opportunity to their region and I look forward to the success this apprenticeship will bring to Nicholasville.”

Since 1973, RJ Corman Railroad Group has served all seven North American major railroads, many regional and shortline railroads and dozens of industries utilizing rail. Services include owning and operating eleven shortlines, providing emergency rail services associated with derailments and natural disasters, switching, track construction, track material distribution, signal design/construction, building switching locomotives and operating a dinner train. RJ Corman employs over 300 people at its headquarters in Nicholasville.

“As a family owned, Kentucky-based business, we are pleased to work with the Labor Cabinet to continue to create opportunities for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Ed Quinn, President and CEO, RJ Corman Railroad Group. “We believe that by investing in people, we can contribute to the workforce development of our state.”

The ‘Kentucky Trained. Kentucky Built.’ initiative signals Kentucky’s recommitment of new energy and resources toward strengthening apprenticeships across Kentucky. Since November of last year, 1,000 new apprentices statewide have been registered, bringing the total number of registered apprentices to 3,157 in 206 programs throughout Kentucky.

State Sen. Tom Buford (Nicholasville) also offered praise.

“I would like to thank RJ Corman Railroad Group for beginning this new, innovative apprenticeship program that will certainly benefit our community and the company alike,” said Sen. Buford. “I look forward to seeing this hands-on program and its participants in action, and I wish the company the best in this new endeavor.”

For more information on Registered Apprenticeships, visit www.KentuckyApprenticeship.com.

Follow the Kentucky Labor Cabinet on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates.

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Kentucky is already a marijuana state; we just have chosen the least effective way to manage that fact…

GUEST OP-ED: Time to rethink Kentucky’s marijuana laws

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  • David Adams/Guest Op-Ed
  • 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.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Hemp is ‘the next big thing’ in pain management as growth and research expand in Ky.

    By Beth Warren Louisville Courier Journal

    To some it seems taboo. But a nationally renowned pain doctor says a four-letter word can ease aches and anxiety without the risk of addiction: H-E-M-P.

    “It’s gonna be the next big thing,” said Dr. James Patrick Murphy, a former president of the Greater Louisville Medical Society who treats patients in Kentucky and Indiana.

    Hemp won’t alleviate acute pain, Murphy said, but it can lessen more moderate pain — allowing some patients to reduce or stop taking addictive pain pills that fuel the heroin and opioid epidemic.

    With Louisville losing an average of one person a day to drug overdoses, doctors and patients are scrambling to find safer ways to treat pain.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved hemp products for use as medicine, and clinical trials on cannabinoids or CBD oil — extracted from the hemp flower —are pending. But Murphy and other doctors seethe oil as a promising option, and many people who are trying it for themselves say it works.

    “People are coming in using this stuff,” Murphy said. “We have to learn about it.”

    CBD oil has been credited with significantly reducing the severity of violent and potentially deadly epileptic seizures — especially in children.And hemp seeds are considered a “superfood,” rich in omegas and protein.

    Yet the hemp plant is often confused and dismissed as a forbidden relative of marijuana.

    “Cheers” actor Woody Harrelson grabbed national attention in June 1996 by planting four hemp seeds in Eastern Kentucky on a Lee County farm. His arrest was a stunt to highlight the difference between pot and hemp.

    Both are the same plant species, Cannabis sativa. And they have the same pointy leafs and pungent scent. But hemp has a breadth of uses and a negligible amount of the mind-altering ingredient THC.

    “Cars can run on hemp oil,” the actor wrote in a letter published in Courier Journal after his arrest. “Environmentally friendly detergents, plastics, paints, varnishes, cosmetics and textiles are already being made from it” in Europe.

    Still, U.S. lawmakers would take nearly two decades longer to embrace it.

    A federal law many dub the “2014 Farm Bill” cleared a path for its comeback.

    Now Kentucky is among the nation’s top producers, trailing Colorado.

    Brian Furnish, an eighth-generation tobacco farmer, was among the first in decades to legally plant hemp seeds in Kentucky soil. He grows and promotes hemp as an executive with Ananda Hemp, one of the commonwealth’s largest growers.

    Furnish is not only a grower, he’s a consumer. He says a few drops of CBD oil ease his neck and back pain due to old football injuries and heavy lifting of feed sacks and other strenuous chores.

    Now, he doesn’t work the farm without it.

    ‘I feel great’

    Murphy is among the doctors who first learned about the potential benefits of hemp from their patients.

    Curious, he did some research, reading about CBD oil and even testing it on himself for four days. Although he didn’t need it for pain, he verified it didn’t give him a buzz or any negative side effects.

    He decided to recommend it to 200 patients.

    About 90 percent of the 175 who tried CBD oil spray or pills reported benefits, such as fewer migraines and tension headaches and more tolerable leg and back pain and arthritis, he said. Others had more restful sleep and less anxiety.

    But it’s not for everyone.

    Murphy doesn’t recommend it to patients who are taking blood thinners or who have heart conditions.

    And a small number of his patients opted to stop taking hemp after becoming dizzy. Others didn’t notice any relief from migraines or enough relief from severe pain.

    Those who opted not to try hemp included an elderly patient whose husband wouldn’t let her try anything related to marijuana.

    Dr. Bruce Nicholson, a Pennsylvania pain expert, also recommends hemp to many of his patients.

    Dozens have reduced or stopped taking opioids, he said. Patients reported less trembling from neuropathy and relief from achy muscles. The doctor personally uses hemp several times a week, rubbing a cream on his achy joints.

    “In the medical profession, we knew nothing about it,” said Nicholson, who began reading up on it about three years ago.

    Nicholson estimates that as many as 80 percent of his patients suffering from chronic pain also face anxiety or depression. He said hemp can help that too.

    “Now I recommend it every day to my patients,” he said.

    Ready to try hemp? From beer to bedding, hemp products are easily found at some stores that may surprise you

    Lisa Whitaker, 50, one of Murphy’s patients on disability for migraines and herniated discs, said CBD oil didn’t ease her severe headaches but did help her back pain.

    It took four to six weeks before she noticed significant relief.

    “This has been a lifesaver,” Whitaker said.

    Southern Indiana resident Valerie Reed, 36, said she began a daily regimen of the oil about a year ago after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She didn’t want to take the narcotic her doctor prescribed because of a host of potentially “scary” side effects.

    Within months, she said: “The tremors, shaking, that’s gone.”

    Severe headaches on her right side also eased and she could bear hip pain from walking.

    Reed said she told her neurologist and her general practitioner she was using the hemp product daily. “Both were OK with it.”

    “As long as I take it, I feel great,” she said.

    Riley Cote, a Canadian native known as a bruiser on the ice during his tenure with the National Hockey League, said hemp eases his arthritis and inflammation and helps him relax and fall into a deeper sleep. He has become a hemp activist, starting the Hemp Heals Foundation and encouraging former Philadelphia Flyer teammates and other athletes to use the oil instead of opioids, sleeping pills and muscle relaxers.

    Cote came to Kentucky recently to tour Ananda Hemp’s farm in Harrison County, northeast of Lexington. The company imported hemp seeds from Australia and has expanded its crops to cover 500 acres in Kentucky with plans to keep growing.

    “It’s just gonna get bigger and better,” the retired hockey star said of the hemp industry. “We’ve barely scratched the surface.”

    Where’s the proof?

    It’s easy to find someone who claims using hemp oil with CBD helped them feel better or sleep better.

    But doctors, scientists and others — including the FDA — are eager for clinical proof.

    Some promising research came out in May.

    An article published in the May 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, reported the results of an extensive clinical trial led by Dr. Orrin Devinsky and colleagues. It found that CBD hemp oil lessened the frequency of violent and dangerous seizures in children and young adults with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder with a high rate of death.

    Barry Lambert, an investor in Ananda Hemp’s parent company, Ecofibre, who grew up on a dairy farm in the Australia Bush, wrote a testimonial on how CBD oil saved his granddaughter’s life from debilitating seizures that “tore away at her brain and body every 15 seconds.”

    Can you get high off hemp? We’ll help clear the fog about marijuana’s ‘kissing cousin’

    Research on other potential health benefits is underway across the nation.

    Kentucky is leading the way with 17 studies at seven universities: the University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, Sullivan University, Western Kentucky, Murray State, Morehead and Kentucky State, said Brent Burchett, head of the state Department of Agriculture’s division of value-added plant production.

    University of Louisville’s research includes evaluating hemp as a fuel source.

    The University of Kentucky is examining the best growing conditions of hemp and plans to study the oil in mice for two years. If they find negative side effects, it could lead the FDA to pull projects from shelves, said Joe Chappell, a professor of drug design and discovery.

    If they don’t find problems, he said it could help clear the way for its mainstream use.

    “There’s a lot of anecdotal information, of course. There can be some relief from pain and inflammation,” he said.

    Chappell hopes to lead testing to answer these questions: “Who is it safe for? For what duration? At what doses?”

    Researchers are in the early stages of verifying hemp’s full potential.

    It’s too soon to know the full scope of how much money the leafy crop can bring farmers, processors and businesses — or how many ways it can benefit pain sufferers.

    ‘Questions and curiosity’

    Consider it the new era of hemp.

    Furnish describes his farming family as “very old style, conservative people” initially leery of hemp.

    But after deciphering fact from fiction surrounding the controversial crop, he has taken a leadership role in the hemp movement.

    “Hemp will keep another eight generations of farmers working the land,” he said.

    Individual states can now pass laws allowing industrial hemp to be grown under a pilot program. The state was among the first to give the go-ahead in 2014, but farmers and processors must gain approval from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

    Seventy-four of the state’s 120 counties are growing and/or processing the diverse plant, according to the agriculture department’s most current figures. That includes Jefferson County, which has 10 growers or processors.

    Hemp has been used in more than 25,000 products, from foods, supplements, textiles, paper to building materials and cosmetics, according to a March report by the Congressional Research Service. It’s even a fiberglass alternative for cars and planes.

    Hemp sales in the United States are at nearly $600 million annually, according to the report.

    “I don’t know of another crop that has that many uses — well more than corn, soy or cotton,” said Duane Sinning, manager of Colorado’s industrial hemp program.

    “The interest is higher” today in growing hemp and using its products, he said. “I think it’ll continue to grow.”

    Many predict the variety of hemp products and use across the state and nation will continue to increase if studies back up the many anecdotal claims of health benefits.

    That could push Congress to ease or remove federal restrictions.

    Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said he’s working with lawmakers to remove hemp from the list of controlled substances.

    “We owe it to farmers to explore all aspects of industrial hemp,” he said, “just like soybeans in the 1960s when they were an experimental crop.”

    Wellness experts at Rainbow Blossom Kentuckiana markets are doing their part to promote hemp products. They co-hosted “hemp week” in June, fielding questions from customers.

    Summer Auerbach, the natural food stores’ second-generation owner, said “people are coming in with a lot of questions and curiosity” about hemp.

    She’s a customer herself, rubbing a hemp salve on her shoulders, neck and jaw before bed. She said the CBD oil in the balm lessens tightness and aches from temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, and she awakens with fewer headaches.

    “It’s exciting to see so much of the innovation of hemp in Kentucky,”

    she said. “We’re not even close to seeing what it can do.”

    CONTINUE READING…

    The poverty rates in nine Eastern Kentucky counties were among the 30 highest in the nation in 2016, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

    ‘Not enough jobs.’ Nine of the 30 poorest counties in U.S. are in Eastern Kentucky.

    By Bill Estep   December 03, 2017 11:45 AM

    The poverty rates in nine Eastern Kentucky counties were among the 30 highest in the nation in 2016, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

    The rate in Owsley County was third-highest in the country, at 45.2 percent, the agency estimated.

    The highest rate in the U.S. was in Todd County, S.D., at 48.6 percent, and next was Crowley County, Col., at 48 percent, according to the report released Thursday.

    The other Kentucky counties in the group with the highest estimated poverty rates were Clay, Martin, McCreary, Knox, Lee, Bell, Knott and Harlan.

    Several have been hit hard by a sharp downturn in the coal industry, which has wiped out more than two-thirds of the coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky since 2011.

    The estimates illustrate the challenge as officials, educators and business people work to diversify the economy and counteract the downturn.

    There are some promising developments, such as growth in work-from-home jobs and projects to improve roads, but still not enough economic opportunity in the region, said Owsley County Judge-Executive Cale Turner.

    “There’s not enough jobs, definitely not,” said Turner, a Democrat.

    How America’s big and small counties differ

    The 325 million people in the United States live in two very different areas: Big-county America and small-county America.

    U.S. Census Bureau

    The Census Bureau’s report, which it does annually, is the only source of single-year estimates on poverty and median household income at the county and school-district levels, according to the agency.

    Other estimates consider multiple years.

    The report, which covers 3,141 counties, is important because it is used in allocating federal aid to local governments and school districts.

    The lowest estimated poverty rate in the country in 2016 was in Douglas County, Col., at 3.4 percent.

    The report said that from 2015 to 2016, more U.S. counties saw a decrease in the poverty rate than an increase.

    But taking a longer view, the poverty rate went up in more counties than it went down between 2007 and 2016.

    Of all the people in the country considered poor, 41.5 percent live in the South; 23.3 percent in the West; 19.7 percent in the Midwest; and 15.4 percent in the Northeast.

    Nearly 40 percent of the counties in the South had a poverty rate above 20 percent in 2016.

    The report also estimated median household income — the point with half of households making more and half making less.

    Again, several counties in Eastern Kentucky were in the group of 30 with the lowest figures.

    The median household income in Owsley County was $23,115. The top number was in Loudoun County, Va., in the Washington, D.C metro area, at $134,609, according to the report.

    Kentucky as a whole had the fifth-highest poverty rate at 18.2 percent, behind Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico and Washington, D.C.

    The state’s median household income was sixth-lowest in the country, at $46,610, according to the Census report.

    Turner said such estimates give only a partial picture of life in a county because they don’t take into account factors such as a lower cost of living.

    And he said the county’s numbers would likely be better now than the period covered in the report.

    He pointed to more than 100 residents who have gotten jobs since mid-2016 through a program called Teleworks USA, which trains people to work from home in customer-service jobs such as taking reservations for UHaul or orders for products.

    That has been possible because Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative installed fiber-optic lines to make internet speeds up of up to one gigabit per second available to very home and business in Owsley and Jackson counties.

    “I’ve talked to a lot of people that have these jobs and they’re thrilled,” Turner said.

    The teleworks jobs will be one piece of diversifying the region’s economy, but it will take other approaches as well, Turner said, including training so people can qualify for higher-paying online jobs.

    “There has to be more,” Turner said.

    Bill Estep: 606-678-4655, @billestep1

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    Kentucky is paying imprisoned people an average of just 9 cents an hour for labor …

    Free Kentucky prisoners from toiling for slave wages

    By Cameron Lopez

    December 01, 2017 05:30 PM

    Image result for kentucky prison labor

    We have to be blunt about topics that seem too shocking to be true.

    Kentucky is paying imprisoned people an average of just 9 cents an hour for labor. These inmates are forced to work for the state. The rate Kentucky is paying them is 1/90th the rate of the minimum wage.

    Slavery is labor that is coerced and inadequately rewarded, Kentucky jail labor fits both of those criteria. Slavery is happening in Kentucky.

    This doesn’t seem like it should be legal in the United States, but when the U.S. was outlawing slave labor after the Civil War they amended the Constitution. The 13th Amendment says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” That second part of the sentence, “except as a punishment for crime,” allows the prison system to use unpaid labor as long as the person has been convicted. This also allows the justice system to force a person to work even if they don’t want to.

    Just because slavery can be legal doesn’t necessarily mean it is happening. Unfortunately for Kentuckians, it is happening. A lot. The 2016 Annual Report by the Department of Corrections says that inmates worked in excess of 6.2 million hours and were paid $540,115. If we value their labor at minimum wage, they produced $45.4 million worth of labor and got paid less than 2 percent of what they deserve.

    Some people may have harsh views of criminals, thinking, “well they shouldn’t have done the crime if they didn’t want to face punishment.” Let’s examine this.

    We see somebody on TV accused of heinous crimes and think that’s every criminal. But the majority of the state’s prison population — 56 percent, according to the Kentucky Department of Corrections — committed crimes that weren’t violent or sex crimes.

    To go even further, America’s, and subsequently Kentucky’s, set of laws that we’re supposed to abide by is so complicated that nobody knows how many criminal laws there are in the U.S. Not “nobody” in the metaphorical sense, literally nobody: no lawyer, no politician, no Supreme Court Justice knows how many laws there are that can be violated criminally.

    You could be unknowingly violating the law right now. In fact, you probably are. Civil liberties advocate Harvey Silverglate says the average U.S. citizen commits three felonies a day. So, if you’re stressed today, here’s just a friendly reminder: you or any of your family members could be incarcerated on any day.

    The solution to this is actual criminal justice reform and compassion for those incarcerated.

    It is not right that people are working for 9 cents an hour, less than a dollar a day. We need to pay them minimum wage, or stop forced inmate labor. It is slavery.

    We need criminal law reform so that not everybody is committing multiple felonies a day living their everyday lives. Our goal should be to keep people out of jails, not put more in jails because that next person could be you.

    Cameron Lopez is an economics student at the University of Kentucky.

    CONTINUE READING…

    RELATED…

    (KY) Magistrates voice support for legalizing medical cannabis

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    By Laura Harvey Lead Reporter lharvey@the-messenger.com

    Nearly two weeks after Kentucky’s secretary of state announced convening a special task force to propose the legalization of medical cannabis, two Hopkins County magistrates have voiced their support for the action.

    Currently, 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow their citizens to use marijuana in some form — whether for recreation or medicinal purposes. The majority, including Illinois and Ohio, have legalized cannabis for medical purposes only.

    On Nov. 15, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced that she had created a task force to focus on a similar legislative proposal. The group includes members of the state’s medical community, law enforcement, medical marijuana advocates and military veterans.

    State Rep. John Sims, of Flemingsburg is currently drafting medical marijuana legislation for the 2018 session. On Tuesday, two members of the Hopkins County Fiscal Court voiced their support for the proposal during a regular meeting.

    “I am not talking about the ‘average joe’ smoking pot,” said District One Magistrate Karol Welch. “I am talking about people, medical cannabis and the immediate need for laws in Kentucky to allow true, sick and disabled people to legally use cannabis as an option in treating their illness.”

    Welch said 12,000 people in Kentucky, including a relative of hers, live with Parkinson’s disease. The incurable disorder, which affects the central nervous system and movement, progressively causes trembling and stiffening of the extremities while affecting balance and coordination.

    Welch said some studies have suggested that medical cannabis can significantly improve Parkinson’s symptoms.

    “It reduces muscle spasms and stiffness … and improves sleeping, anxiety and eating,” she said. “It also calms your mind without making you crazy. There are numerous studies that support the medical uses of cannabis.

    “There needs to be compassionate, common-sense reform of the laws that will help the genuinely sick, diseased and disabled citizens of the Bluegrass State,” she added. “Those are the people who are going to be using it — the citizens. We need to realize that just because you don’t need it today, doesn’t mean you won’t later have an accident and be begging for it tomorrow.”

    District Four Magistrate Jack Whitfield Jr. said he agreed with the proposal.

    “Five years ago, I was completely against it,” he said. “But I have a twin sister with multiple sclerosis. Four years ago, we were just talking at Thanksgiving and she — my twin, my age — just fell. I mean, she hit the floor and I broke down crying.

    “But now I have looked at the statistics,” he added. “(Marijuana) is here already, but I think it will be much better and safer if it were legal.”

    While proposed legislation is already scheduled for discussion next year, Welch said she was confident a law governing cannabis use would be passed relatively soon.

    “I think it is going to happen,” she said. “I don’t think it is going to take 20 years like some people think it will.”

    CONTINUE READING…