- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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Jan. 8

The Lexington Herald-Leader on legalizing medical marijuana:

Two years ago, 125 of Kentucky’s 138 lawmakers supported, and Gov. Matt Bevin signed, a “right to try” bill giving terminally ill patients access to unproven, experimental drugs that lack Food and Drug Administration approval.

Last year, Congress enacted “right to try,” and President Donald Trump enthusiastically signed the law which the White House said “returns treatment decisions back to patients.”

It’s hypocritical then that many of the same officials, in Frankfort and Washington, still want to deny a treatment to patients who say it’s the most effective relief for their chronic pain, PTSD and other symptoms - a substance that has been used medicinally for millennia and produces none of the tragic side-effects that FDA-approved prescription opiates have inflicted on Americans.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which insists that marijuana has no medicinal value and is as dangerous as heroin, also failed to protect the public from the over-prescription and misuse of highly addictive (and highly profitable) prescription painkillers.

So, excuse us if we put more stock in what patients say than in discredited “reefer madness” warnings from those who would make criminals of Eric Crawford of Mason County and many other Kentuckians who say they find greater relief in illegal cannabis than in the legal treatments they have tried.

As the Herald-Leader’s Jack Brammer reports, Crawford, whose spinal cord was broken in an auto accident in 1994, leaving him wheelchair bound, is part of the advocacy group Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana, which will again be seeking legalization and regulation of medical marijuana in the newly-convened Kentucky legislature.

Thirty-three states - including Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois and Missouri - plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form for medicinal use. Another 10 have legalized recreational marijuana.

A major hurdle in Kentucky is Senate President Robert Stivers, who demands scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical value. There are plenty such studies, including two published in March by the American Medical Association’s journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, that found a reduction in opioid prescriptions in states after they approved medical marijuana.

Hefi Wen, an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and an author of one of the studies, says there is evidence “that marijuana is one of the potential alternatives to opioids for pain management” and “can be used at a relatively low rate of addiction and no rate of overdose death.”

In 2017, drug overdoses - the majority from opioids - killed 1,565 people in Kentucky. No one died from an overdose of marijuana, in 2017 or ever.

In a Catch 22, marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance does block more extensive research into its potential, prompting the American Legion, a veterans group, to ask Trump to clear the way for more marijuana research. The American Legion, which cites substantial anecdotal evidence in the drug’s favor, is desperate to find better relief for military veterans suffering from PTSD. The suicide rate among vets is at all-time high, an average 20 a day.

Kudos to Reps. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, and Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park, who plan to seek approval for medical marijuana. Lawmakers should embrace that effort - out of compassion for suffering Kentuckians and, as they did two years ago with “right to try,” to send a message to Washington.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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Jan. 9

The Daily News of Bowling Green on a former Kentucky attorney general and House speaker seeking state’s top law enforcement job:

Former House Speaker Greg Stumbo will forever be remembered for giving a rambling speech after Gov. Matt Bevin was elected in November 2015 that had many people wondering … The former House speaker and former attorney general, who was defeated in the November 2016 election, praised President Barack Obama that evening as well as on many other occasions. We editorialized after that election, stating the Kentucky Democratic Party had aligned itself too closely with the national Democratic Party. Many of the rising stars in the party were delegates for Obama, but campaigned in Kentucky as if they were moderates. Kentuckians showed Democrats that voters couldn’t be fooled, because in that 2016 election they voted Republicans overwhelmingly into the General Assembly, allowing the GOP to take control of the legislature for the first time in nearly 100 years.

Stumbo lost his seat and his speakership and we hoped that would be the last of him in the political arena, quite frankly. Bevin put it best that evening when he was asked about Stumbo’s defeat, saying, “Good riddance. He will not be missed one bit. Kentucky will be better for his absence.” Bevin also talked about how Stumbo had been a thorn in many people’s sides for far too long …

Stumbo reminds us of our current Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has spent much of his first three years in office suing Bevin.

This really is politics at its worst by both individuals.

Now, we learn that Stumbo is planning to try to get his old attorney general’s office back. If elected in an increasingly red state, we would guess Stumbo would go back to his old tricks if Bevin or another Republican governor is elected. Given his prior track record as an attorney general, it really wouldn’t surprise us one bit.

Our state needs an attorney general who does the real work for the people, not one who grandstands and sues political opponents for purely political reasons. Beshear and Stumbo are these types of people - they’d rather fight for their own political futures by going after their political opponents than work for the people of this state.

Stumbo’s election … is something we can’t afford to allow to happen.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Jan. 5

Richmond Register on getting a flu vaccine:

It’s time to get the flu vaccine if you haven’t already.

Health officials have said time and time again how important it can be. However, those words are more important now than ever before as flu season has hit Kentucky hard.

Through Dec. 29, there were more than 1,450 lab-confirmed cases across the state. Four adult deaths and one pediatric death have now been linked to the flu this season

These numbers do not include rapid test results nor do they include those with flu-like illnesses who have been diagnosed by their primary care physician as having the flu based on symptoms.

“We strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly children 6 months and older and those people at high risk for complications related to the flu, to get a flu shot,” said Jeff Howard, M.D., commissioner of Department of Public Health.

Health officials have said the flu season typically peaks in mid-February.

Despite the high numbers, the amount of cases is comparable to the number of cases at this time last season.

But not everyone gets the vaccine. In fact, just 38 percent of Kentuckians got the flu shot in 2016-17. The numbers improved slightly among children as 43.5 percent got their flu shot.

That means more half the population is vulnerable to this potentially deadly disease.

With the flu being so widespread, health officials are reminding Kentuckians to be especially aware of the high-risk population, which includes children younger than 5, senior citizens, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term facilities and those with chronic illnesses.

Officials said the flu can be highly contagious and cause potentially life-threatening disease. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Those who develop flu symptoms should seek medical advice to determine if they should be treated with an antiviral drug, which could shorten the course of the illness or reduce its severity.

To help stop the spread of the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips:

. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

. If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

And get the flu vaccine.

Online: http://www.richmondregister.com

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