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Date: 11-17-2014;

Advocates ask for 'cannabis compassion'

By Brad Bowman
The State Journal

In the wake of 23 states and Washington D.C. passing medicinal marijuana legislation, an updated bill, called the Cannabis Compassion Act, was to be submitted Friday for the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly session.

Jamie Montalvo, president of the nonprofit Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana, testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations that updated versions of bills HB 350 and SB43 would make a legal functioning process for patients seeking alternatives to their current medications to treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer treatment symptoms and glaucoma. 

Montalvo said more than 18 states have decriminalized cannabis and the National Cancer Institute found that cannabinoids, chemical compounds in marijuana, appear to kill tumor cells in the brain, breast, lung, liver and colon and protect healthy ones. 

Given the heroin and opiate problems in Kentucky, Montalvo said, the Journal of American Medical Association found that states with medical cannabis legislation have a 24.8 percent lower mortality rate from opiate-related overdoses than states without. 

“This year’s version is at the bill writers right now,” Montalvo said. “It has not officially been put into the system yet, but it will be. It is a medical cannabis bill. We are not trying to regulate the program for everybody to have access. This is for people who are really sick and need safe access to something that has been found therapeutically effective to treat their pain or other issues.”

The Cannabis Compassion Act’s qualifying patient conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder, peripheral neurophathy, AIDS, ALS and cancer. 

Patients would have to acquire a signed recommendation by a practitioner — an existing doctor, which they would have a professional relationship with, Montalvo said, and not a fly-by-night physician to acquire medical marijuana. 

Not a prescription

The act requires a recommendation not a prescription, as a physician cannot write a prescription for a substance considered to be federally illegal.

State Sen. Tom Buford, R-Fayette, remarked this was the tricky legal hoop to traverse. 

“With the inability of a physician to make a prescription, we sit on very fragile land here to have the doctor get involved in this at all,” Buford said. “If I am going to support something, and I don’t have a problem helping those who need a cure for their illness, I would want it to be through a pharmacy only. I wouldn’t be for setting up these, what I call, entertainment centers like they have in Colorado. I would limit it through the pharmacy.”

Buford also raised the legal questions like prosecution from the attorney general or the DEA. 

“I think the first step is … without the attorney general’s approval and that of the state police that they won’t come after you and perhaps the U.S. Marshal,” Buford said, “I don’t know that we can do much for you. I’m not opposed to what you want to do, but I think you have to change bigger minds than ours to move forward. The change of a president, change of a governor, change of an AG (attorney general), the ‘House of Cards’ could come tumbling down quickly.”

Rep. David Floyd, R-Nelson, advised that if cannabis treatment was ingested instead of smoked and if qualifying conditions were restricted to diagnosable diseases it may help Montalvo’s bill. 

Criminalizing marijuana, Rep. Tom Burch, D-Jefferson, said might have been a mistake.

“I was here, and maybe the only other person was Gov. Carroll, when we criminalized marijuana, which was kind of a stupid thing to do. We didn’t know anything about marijuana,” Burch said. “We decriminalized public drunkenness and it didn’t cause any big problems in this state. I think this (cannabis legislation) is something that has passed in so many states now, Kentucky has to move ahead and do it and take care of people that actually need this drug.”


Citizen groups initiate legal action against eastern Kentucky coal company for falsifying pollution reports

State regulators ignore clean water protections and enforcement


Eastern Kentucky – Over the past year, a large coal company with operations across eastern Kentucky sent the state false water pollution reports constituting almost 28,000 violations of federal law, and Kentucky Energy and the Environment Cabinet officials failed to detect the falsifications, according to legal documents filed by four citizens groups.

In a 32-page notice of intent to sue served on Friday, the groups document that Frasure Creek duplicated analytical results from one water pollution monitoring report to the next, misleading government officials and the public about the amount of water pollution the company has been discharging from its eastern Kentucky coal mines. In some cases, Frasure Creek changed only the values that would have constituted violations of pollution limits in the company’s discharge permits.

The notice letter was sent by Appalachian Voices, Kentucky Riverkeeper, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and the Waterkeeper Alliance. It is the second time the groups have taken legal action against Frasure Creek Mining for similar violations of the Clean Water Act.

The groups are represented by Mary Cromer of Appalachian Citizens Law Center, attorney Lauren Waterworth, and the Pace Law School Environmental Litigation Clinic. Under the Clean Water Act, citizens must give the government 60-days notice of their intent to sue for violations. If Frasure Creek does not correct the violations within the 60-day time period, the groups said they will file suit in federal court.

Four years ago, the groups found similar falsified pollution reports from Frasure Creek, where the company copied data from one report to the next. When the violations were brought to light, the state cabinet gave the company a minimal fine and promised reforms to ensure the agency would detect misreporting in the future. According to the notice filed yesterday, the more recent duplications are even more extensive, and the state again failed to detect the violations or take enforcement action.

“Copy and paste is not compliance,” said Eric Chance, a water quality specialist with Appalachian Voices. “The fact that Frasure Creek continued to flout the law to this extent, even after being caught before, shows it has no regard for the people and communities they are impacting. Equally disturbing is the failure of state officials to act to stop the obvious violations. We’re not sure state officials even look at the quarterly reports.”

Frasure Creek has filed false reports or violated permit limits at more than 70 discharge points from the company’s numerous coal mines across eastern Kentucky. These violations are primarily at mines in Floyd County, but also occur at mines in Pike, Magoffin, Knott and Perry counties. The impacted waterways include tributaries of the Big Sandy River, Licking River and Kentucky River. In the first quarter of 2014, more than 40% of the all reports filed by Frasure Creek contained data that the company had already submitted in 2013.

“The Clean Water Act absolutely depends on accurate reporting of pollution discharges. False reporting like this undermines the entire regulatory framework that safeguards the people and waters of Kentucky from dangerous pollution,” said Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Pete Harrison. “By all indications, this case looks like the biggest criminal conspiracy to violate the federal Clean Water Act in the history of that law. The refusal of the U.S. Attorney and the Environmental Protection Agency to bring criminal cases against Frasure Creek is just as inexcusable as the state’s failure to bring this company into compliance.”

“Once gain we find ourselves in the position of having to take action against Frasure Creek for the exact same type of violations we found four years ago. The Environmental Cabinet says they do not have the personnel to enforce the Clean Water Act. I would add they do not have the will to do so,” said Ted Withrow with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.

When the citizen groups made those violations public four years ago, the cabinet attributed the false reporting to “transcription errors” and attempted to let Frasure Creek off the hook with minimal fines and no consequences if the violations continued. (That case is still pending in Franklin Circuit Court.) Though the false reporting stopped for a short time, during those months when accurate monitoring reports were submitted the pollution levels spiked.

“Frasure Creek’s false reports are hiding very serious water pollution problems,” said Kentucky Riverkeeper Pat Banks. “It’s reprehensible that our state officials are ignoring the serious consequences of this illegal activity for the people and the economy of eastern Kentucky.”

“We cannot make an economic transition in eastern Kentucky without clean water for the future,” added Withrow. “More than 28,000 violations of the Clean Water Act cannot be swept under the rug.”



Former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman: Democrats have lost small towns and rural America...

Democrats lost the Senate majority because they have lost touch with rural America, former Secretary of Agriculture and Kansas congressman Dan Glickman opines in the Huffington Post. Here is Glickman's piece in its entirety.

Dan Glickman"But since the Democrats had a rough night on Nov. 4, it is worth focusing on one of their structural weaknesses and one I believe is being ignored by many of their party leaders. And that is the longer-term difficulties that face Democratic candidates in small towns and rural America. Notwithstanding the very strong farm and agricultural economy the past few years, the Democratic Party and its leadership are having a great deal of trouble connecting with farmers and rural citizens and small-town America.

The reasons may be cultural or economic, but whatever they are, they reflect the feeling that in many cases Democrats have become the exclusively urban party. Ironically, many—if not most of—the issues rural and urban folks care about are the same: good jobs, economic growth, a sound environment and access to decent and affordable health care. But the urban/rural divide has become a steep one over the past two decades, and it is often overlooked.

Vigorous efforts have been made by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to focus on rural development, jobs, trade, technology, energy and effective Farm bill implementation, but President Obama himself is often viewed, fairly or unfairly, as uninterested in farm and rural issues. Certainly President Clinton's Arkansas political background and personal attention to these issues was helpful to Democrats in Congress fighting to hold on to rural districts. But an astonishing fact is that there are very few Democrats representing primarily rural districts left in the entire country. Certainly most of this is due to factors beyond the president's control. While rural Americans represent a diverse political group, by and large over time they have reflected more conservative political views. But a sustained effort at the highest political level by Democrats to connect with rural issues and concerns is necessary if they want to broaden their popularity and build bigger and more successful electoral coalitions and succeed in this country's many rural congressional districts.

In the Senate, states with large farm and rural populations (South Dakota, Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia and others) have lost Democratic senators in part because of the loss of the rural and farm vote. These are states that used to be much more bipartisan on rural and farm politics but have now, much like the rest of the country, have become much more ideologically sorted and pure. A classic example is Virginia, where the strong rural vote almost cost Senator Mark Warner his re-election victory.

The votes of rural and small-town Americans remain key in statewide and presidential elections. It is no secret that casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were borne by a disproportionate number of young men and women from these areas. The economic recession has also hit rural America very hard and many towns have not seen much impact on their lives from the rebounding American economy.

The White House and Democratic Party gurus need to recognize that they are failing to connect with rural America. There are no magic solutions, but at a minimum the president needs to make some personal farm and rural visits in the heartland early next year and listen to the concerns of these folks. I suspect that part of the problem for Democrats is that rural Americans often think the national party is ignoring them completely and dismissing their importance as constituents whose voices should be heard. Reaching out to rural America just might be a good first step to reinforce the bipartisan traditions of rural America.

Finally, these observations are not merely political or tactical. Historically, food, farm and rural development legislation including national nutrition programs and global food security measures have required a national bipartisan support base. This coalition involved lawmakers representing urban, suburban and rural communities creating a national policy on food issues. The last farm bill demonstrated how tenuous the nature of this coalition has become and the vulnerability of numerous important legislative initiatives on these issues. The future of American leadership on nutrition, farming and hunger is in jeopardy without positive action to rebuild and maintain these bipartisan coalitions."

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