Call to Order and Roll Call
The5th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, October 12, 2017, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Tim Moore, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Albert Robinson, Co-Chair; Representative Tim Moore, Co-Chair; Senators Julian M. Carroll, Perry B. Clark, C.B. Embry Jr., Denise Harper Angel, Stan Humphries, Dennis Parrett, Mike Wilson, and Max Wise; Representatives Robert Benvenuti III, Tom Burch, Will Coursey, Jeffery Donohue, Myron Dossett, Jim DuPlessis, Chris Fugate, Jeff Greer, Chris Harris, Dan Johnson, DJ Johnson, Donna Mayfield, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Brandon Reed, Rob Rothenburger, and Walker Thomas.
Guests: Richard W. Sanders, Commissioner, Kentucky State Police, Van Ingram, Executive Director, Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Staff; Ed Schemelya, Director, National Marijuana Initiative; Tony Coder, Director, State and Local Affairs, Smart Approaches to Marijuana; Lewis Priddy; Alex Payne, Deputy Commissioner Kentucky State Police; Mark Filburn, Commissioner, Department of Criminal Justice Training; Scott Thalman, Students for Concealed Carry, University of Kentucky; Ilya Chernyavskiy, Students for Concealed Carry, University of Louisville; Deborah Doyle, Shelly Steiner, Pathways RPC; Dianna McFarling, River Valley Behavioral Health; Masona Castleberry, Dee Snyder, Sylvia Burns, Sue Chmilewski, Nancy Birdwhistell, Amanda Clark, Betty McTymear, Sharon Mitchell, LaVonne Fingerson, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense; Jaime Montalvo, Aaron Wilson, KY4MM; Carol Hurn, Candace Curtis, Amy Stalker, Kiven Nethery, Eric Crawford, Sally O’Boyle, Michelle Krueger, Julie Cantrell, James McKee, Jon Bontfield; Jason Warf, Alliance for the Adoption of Innovations in Medicine; and Ret. Sgt. Brent Goss.
LRC Staff: Erica Warren, Jessica Zeh, Jonathan Philpot, and Rhonda Schierer.
Senator Parrett moved to adopt the September 14, 2017, meeting minutes. Representative DuPlessis seconded the motion. The minutes were adopted.
Pledge of Allegiance
Chairman Tim Moore led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Staff Sergeant Michael Tester, Kentucky National Guard, was the recipient of the Kentucky Medal of Valor for actions taken when he witnessed a devastating crash near his home that resulted in a fatality, and where other fatalities could have resulted without his actions.
Marijuana and Public Safety
Ed Shemelya, Director, National Marijuana Initiative, discussed how today’s recreational marijuana has evolved since 2012, when Colorado first legalized marijuana. Colorado is the only state to have enough data over time to analyze. The peer reviewed studies being used to justify legalizing marijuana are based on lower levels of THC in marijuana than those currently being cultivated and sold. Scientific studies have not caught up to the current botany of the plants.
The main issue that legislators should consider as they make policy decisions is whether legalizing marijuana creates additional quality of life issues including arrests, fatalities, and hospitalizations versus tax revenue and how generated revenue is being applied to other public policy concerns. In Colorado, driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) fatalities are up 101 percent even though overall deaths have decreased. Hospitalizations and drug violations due to marijuana usage have increased.
On the revenue side, Colorado reported that 2016’s taxes from the sale of marijuana comprised one-half of one percent of its general fund revenue. All revenue generated from marijuana sales has been spent on regulating the industry and harm reduction, based on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey results.
Van Ingram, Executive Director, Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, discussed tobacco industry testimony in Congress years ago indicating that tobacco was not harmful to health. He equated that message to what the pro-decriminalization of marijuana contingencies now claim about using marijuana. Ten to fifteen percent of marijuana users will develop an addiction and stop acting as functioning members of society. He said that increasing the availability of another addictive substance not good public policy.
Tony Coder, Director, State and Local Affairs, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, explained his organization’s goal to bridge the gap in the dichotomy between legalization of marijuana use and incarceration for marijuana use. The organization focuses on the safety of the state’s economy and workplaces with regard to marijuana usage, and in doing so, he speaks to numerous chambers of commerce.
Marijuana is a federally listed Schedule I drug, but 29 states and D.C. have legalized the use of medical marijuana in some form. This sets up several potential conflicts, including the effect of state legalized medical marijuana usage in conjunction with ensuring the safety in transportation, commerce, and workplaces. An employer can get rid of employees because of marijuana usage, but in states where medical marijuana or marijuana usage has been legalized, industries and labor are having trouble finding workers who can pass drug tests. The conflicts in laws also create the possibility of lawsuits for businesses.
Legal decisions around the country have varied outcomes. The Colorado Supreme Court has held that federal laws preempt state laws. New England states claim that the Americans with Disabilities Act covers the use of marijuana for medical reasons. It is still an open question as different federal administrations and agencies have changed their positions over the years, even in the midst of prosecuting cases or submitting amicus briefs in various legal challenges around the country.
The costs of legalization also show up in the increased number of arrests and the racial disparity of those arrests in states where marijuana usage has been legalized. Businesses selling marijuana can be found predominantly in poorer and minority communities.
Richard W. Sanders, Commissioner, Kentucky State Police, said that the argument that legalizing marijuana would save law enforcement and allow officers to focus on bigger issues by eliminating the black market is a myth. He stated that legalizing marijuana increases black market sales. The public policy debate needs to consider both the benefits as well as the risks. Nationwide, 88,000 people die due to alcohol use every year. More people die of tobacco use per year, and even more die of opioid use yearly. Increased marijuana use will lead to more deaths.
In response to a question from Representative Benvenuti, Mr. Coder explained that the difference between marijuana and medical marijuana in stores is simply a red line in the middle of the store that has medical marijuana on one side and marijuana on the other. Mr. Coder said that his organization researched the difference and found that there was no difference; rather, the two kinds of marijuana were simply labeled differently.
In response to a question from Representative Benvenuti, Mr. Coder stated that they do not have a specific dosage for medical marijuana or how much or how often it should be used. More research needs to be done.
School and Campus Safety
Lewis Priddy, a retired principal, testified that everyone is aware that there have been lots of changes in schools over the years in response to school shootings. Kentucky itself experienced an early one in Paducah, which occurred almost twenty years ago. The challenge is to maintain a safe and secure environment to foster learning while also being ready to diffuse any problems.
When Mr. Priddy was a principal at Magnolia Elementary in LaRue County, there were times when it would take 15 to 25 minutes for police to arrive at the school because of its geographic location on the edge of the county. He wished he had personal protection to help keep the school safe and be able to react effectively. His school did not have secure doors or buzzers at the entrance to restrict outsiders from entering the facility. Because of firearms restrictions, he could not even keep a gun in his car to retrieve in an emergency, and he felt restricted in his burden to care for students.
Alex Payne Deputy Commissioner, KSP, explained that he and Mark Filburn, Commissioner, Department of Criminal Justice, have spent a great deal of time studying school shootings and coming up with recommendations to prevent them. Over the years they have come to agree on three things that schools should have: (1) an early warning system to enable prevention through detection; (2) controlled access to a school; and (3) school resource officers in schools to handle dangerous situations. These things are particularly important at elementary schools where young children do not yet know how to make safety decisions quickly. College students immediately know ways to protect themselves when there is a threat, but six-year olds do not. Schools that take actions to implement these procedures are in a much better position to keep their students safe.
Mark Filburn explained that the topic of school safety is important and emotional for him. He and Alex Payne were integral in helping the legislature pass school safety legislation five years ago. The concern today is that most of the recommendations in that legislation are not being followed. Often the reason for this is a lack of funding. Commissioner Filburn reiterated that a layered approach is critical. For example, Sandy Hook had many of these protections, but the perpetrator was able to access the building by shooting through the glass door. The recommendations enacted five years ago were a starting point. Administrators, educators, and law enforcement must continually consider additional measures.
Scott Thalman, Students for Concealed Carry, University of Kentucky, and Ilya Chernyavskiy, Students for Concealed Carry, University of Louisville, expressed their concerns for safety on and off the university campuses. Scott Thalman stated that more than 200 public universities allow and have a great deal of data and experience with allowing concealed carry on college campuses. The data indicate that there has not been one violent incident by a student who has a concealed carry license on those campuses. He believes that concealed carry offers the best tool for students to defend themselves if an incident occurs on campus, but more importantly, it allows them to defend themselves as they travel onto and off of campus. Mr. Thalman promised to provide members with a map showing the high number of crimes that take place immediately around UK and UofL.
Ilya Chernyavskiy discussed how prohibiting concealed carry on campus put students at greater risk of being victims of crimes just off campus. The 2012 Mitchell v. UK decision has helped by confirming that students were allowed to keep their weapons secured in their cars, but that decision does not protect those who walk and bike to campus or those who utilize public transportation.
In response to a question from Representative Duplessis, Mr. Payne emphasized that the vast majority of teachers want to teach and not have to police the schools and would prefer to have a School Resource Officer. Mark Filburn added that elementary school students are the most important because they cannot run, hide, and protect themselves. He stated that people will pay to protect their children.
A committee resolution was presented to the committee honoring Brigadier General Steven P. Bullard upon his military retirement. A motion was made by Co-Chair Representative Moore and seconded by Co-Chair Senator Robinson to adopt the resolution. The resolution was adopted. Representative Moore will present the resolution to General Bullard at his retirement ceremony on October 22nd.
A letter from committee members to VA and FDA encouraging continued scientific study of potential medical uses of the chemical components derived from cannabis for safe, regulated treatment of various medical conditions will be drafted by Representative Moore with the assistance of Representative Benvenuti. All members will see a copy of the letter before it is sent. Senator Embry moved to adopt the letter, which was seconded by Representative Fugate and adopted by a voice vote.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.