Pubdate: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2018 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Alison Lundergan


For years, Kentucky veterans have approached us with a question that
has no good answer: "Why are my comrades in other states able to treat
PTSD and pain with medical cannabis while I cannot?"

Frustrated and confused, these men and women struggle daily with the
effects of post-traumatic stress triggered by the horrors of war and
chronic pain from injuries suffered in combat.

One is Eric Pollack whose PTSD became so unbearable that he nearly
became part of a depressing statistic. In Kentucky, the veteran
suicide rate is 10 percent higher than the national average.

Eric found marijuana quelled the madness in his head when anxiety
medicines failed. He started eating again. He could sleep more than
just a few minutes at a time. But, today, Eric faces this impossible
conundrum: be a criminal who is healthy at home or leave Kentucky for
a place where medical cannabis is legal.

There are so many more Kentuckians -- veterans and not -- who find
themselves making this hard choice.

Laura Mullins lost her daughter to suicide. Her daughter suffered from
a disorder that Laura says medical cannabis could have helped.
Devastated by loss, Laura was prescribed high dosages of anxiety
medicines, but it made her depression worse. CBD oil, a derivative of
cannabis, has helped bring her peace.

Eric Crawford was in a car accident years ago that left him with
debilitating pain and paralysis. He took dozens of prescription pills
for the pain and others to alleviate their side effects. The potent
drug cocktail nearly blinded him. At the suggestion of a physician,
Eric tried marijuana and it miraculously improved his health. His
vision returned and his pain subsided.

Becca Weinhandl's two-year-old daughter Carlee was diagnosed with
epilepsy and cerebral palsy. After exhausting all options here, Becca
moved her family to Colorado so Carlee could get treatment with
medical cannabis. It eliminated Carlee's seizures and, for the first
time, she smiled and started playing with toys. An accident Becca's
husband suffered forced the family back to Kentucky; without the
medical cannabis, Carlee's seizures have returned.

In the time the two of us have been in public life, stories like these
have multiplied and the pleas for help have grown louder.

Kentucky cities and counties are showing support for those who suffer
- -- many are their family members, friends and neighbors. Numerous
localities across the commonwealth -- conservative places like Bullitt
County to more liberal cities like Lexington -- have passed
resolutions supporting legalizing medical cannabis. Louisville is
poised to act this week.

Yet, there has been no action in Frankfort to bring relief. Yes, a
handful of legislators have tried earnestly, but big pharmaceutical
companies have quashed the legislation year after year.

The continual Frankfort refrain is "medical cannabis requires more
study." Folks, Kentuckians have learned the hard way that "study" is
legislator-speak for stall; it's a way to postpone inevitable progress.

Some Kentucky legislators willfully ignore the fact that medical
cannabis has been studied. Thousands of studies show medical cannabis
makes a positive health impact for people with PTSD, cancer, multiple
sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Crohn's disease, hepatitis C and
numerous other illnesses and diseases.

Enough positive evidence exists that 29 states and the District of
Columbia have seen fit to legalize it for their citizens.

Opioid overdose deaths have fallen by 25 percent where medical
cannabis is legal, according to the Journal of the American Medical
Association Internal Medicine. Doctors in medical cannabis states
prescribed 1,800 fewer painkiller prescriptions for patients per year.

There are tangible economic benefits, too. Thousands of jobs could be
created and millions in taxable revenue would be within the
commonwealth's reach.

The inaction must end. Our neighbors in Ohio, Illinois, and West
Virginia -- red and blue states alike -- have already made medical
cannabis legal for their citizens.

It's past time for Kentucky to become the 30th state to make medical
cannabis accessible for our people.

House Bill 166 to legalize and regulate medical cannabis in Kentucky
is being considered right now. If you support medical cannabis, help
us get it passed. Dial 1-800-372-7181 and tell your legislators to
call for a vote on House Bill 166 and pass it! And if you use social
media, use it to ask others to join this effort.

Send the message to every legislator in Frankfort that we expect them
to legalize medical cannabis in 2018 for Eric Pollack and Laura and
Eric Crawford and Becca and Carlee and thousands of other Kentuckians.
It's time.

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Alison Lundergan Grimes is Kentucky's secretary of state; Sgt. Dakota
Meyer of Columbia is a Marine Corps veteran who was awarded the Medal
of Honor.
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