Rep. Anthony Kern on Arizona Propositions

As Arizona leaves the summer heat behind, we are headed into the heat of the 2020 election.

And while the presidential and U.S. senatorial races garner the limelight, state voters have a say on two very important topics – legalizing marijuana and raising income taxes on tens of thousands of taxpayers.

Rep. Anthony Kern
(photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Proposition 207 would legalize marijuana for recreational use, just four years after voters rejected a similar proposal. While Arizona has a robust medical marijuana law allowing people with specific ailments or diseases to use the drug, removing safeguards so that all adults have access to marijuana will hurt our society and lead to far greater ills. 

Allowing greater access to marijuana will increase vehicle crashes and lead to unsafe working environments. We need only look to our neighbor to the north, where car crashes increased by 10 percent following the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for instance, has found a significant increase in car crashes in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. I don’t want to see that trend come to Arizona.

Legalizing recreational marijuana isn’t the only dangerous measure voters will see in November.

Proposition 208 aims to bring us the largest income tax increase in state history. The measure nearly doubles the income tax rate on thousands of taxpayers, including numerous small and medium-sized businesses.

Arizona doesn’t have a school funding problem, but rather the issue is how the money is spent. Just 55 cents of every education tax dollar goes to our classrooms. Too much money ends up in the pockets of administrators. I believe If our school district leaders made better decisions, our teachers and students would benefit greatly. It’s time to instruct those school board members and superintendents to target more resources into the classrooms to support our teachers and students.

An estimated 90,000 Arizonans will be hit with the tax in the first year. And according to one study, half of those paying the tax will be small businesses, the drivers of our state’s economy. I am also just as concerned with how the tax will stifle the earning potential of people who are near the cap. If striving to earn a little more money makes you eligible for the tax, government has taken away the incentive to provide for your family.

Additionally, it’s unclear whether the tax will bring in the nearly $1 billion backers claim. This unstable source of income won’t be the elixir to fix issues with our schools. Instead, approving Prop. 208 will drive businesses away from the state as employers seek states with fairer tax structures.

Representative Anthony Kern serves in the Arizona House and represents Legislative District 20 located in north Phoenix and Glendale.

Responding to Coronavirus without limiting freedom

The spread of the coronavirus has been rampant across the globe crippling countries like Italy, Iran, and South Korea where government-run institutions are the ones solely responsible for fighting the outbreak. But, luckily for residents of the United States, our nation operates a bit differently. Because our healthcare system adheres to free market principles, we have the ability to have private industry collaborate with the federal government to help combat the coronavirus which was categorized just last week by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic.

Every day in America, researchers from biopharmaceutical companies are working endlessly to solve the world’s most sophisticated medical issues. As the global leader in medical innovation, the world looks to us in times of crisis. The reason being is our free market approach to healthcare has led to massive private investment and unprecedented funding for the research being carried out by the best and brightest scientific minds in the world who are incentivized to work right here in America.

Simply put, thanks to our private healthcare system that has resulted in decades of massive investment from biopharmaceutical companies, the U.S. is uniquely positioned to lead the charge against the coronavirus today and any other epidemic that may threaten our society tomorrow.

The irony of large scale epidemics like coronavirus is the clear realization of why we have the system that we do. Lamentably, several legislators on Capitol Hill have forgotten the importance of our free market approach both domestically and globally.

For example, just last year a bill led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi made its way through the House of Representatives that, if it becomes law, would decimate funding for new biopharmaceutical research and development. HR3, more commonly known as “The Lower Drug Costs Now Act”, would stifle future innovation by implementing socialist style government price controls on biopharmaceutical companies as a way to drive down high drug costs.

The adoption of government price controls in the pharmaceutical space is not only short-sighted but flat-out dangerous to public health. People often ask, “why do we pay more for drugs in the U.S. compared to other countries”, the answer is because we invest more in cures and treatments than any other country, and today, everyone should be very happy about that fact.

It’s terrifying to think what the coronavirus outbreak would look like if HR3 had passed 20 years ago. If we are to survive outbreaks and even outpace them, we must have our research teams working at full capacity at all times. In a world of uncertainty, there is no such thing as over-preparedness.

“Do No Harm” in the effort to lower drug costs

As we enter a new decade, advances in medicine hold the promise for a brighter future in the battle against deadly diseases like cancer.  Advances in immunotherapy and targeted gene therapy, for example, present opportunities not even imagined just few years ago.  The challenge for politicians and policy makers is to keep these life-saving advancements coming, while at the same time keeping them affordable for patients.

Getting this balance right is especially important to the large population of Seniors we have in Arizona.

Just 15 years ago a Republican Congress and President modernized Medicare by creating a prescription drug benefit called Medicare Part D.  Unlike other parts of Medicare, Part D was designed on the free-market principles of plan competition and senior choice.  Recognizing that one size does not fit all, every year Seniors have a choice of a variety of plans who compete vigorously for their business.  In order to keep their premiums low and attract Seniors to sign up, plans have a strong incentive to drive a hard bargain with drug manufacturers to keep prices down.

Affordable Drugs

It comes as no surprise to conservatives, that Part D’s free-market model has worked.  When the legislation was passed, the Congressional Budget Office estimated both the cost of the program to Medicare and the average monthly premium a Senior would pay, for the first 10 years of the program.  The actual results were remarkable. 

Medicare spending was 35-40% less than predicted and average monthly premiums projected to be $55 or more in 2016 are in fact only $32.70 in 2020 and that is a slight decrease from 2019.  In addition to these financial measure of success, Part D maintains a Senior Satisfaction Rate in excess of 90%, unheard of for most government programs.

Despite this success, big government advocates like Nancy Pelosi want undermine Medicare Part D and its sister program Medicare Advantage, by importing government price controls from socialist countries.  What is known as an International Pricing Index (IPI) is included in her signature drug pricing legislation which passed the House of Representatives last December. 

President Trump has correctly pointed out that many advanced economies around the world which have socialist health care systems are not paying their fair share of R&D costs for new drugs.  They are freeloading on American consumers.  But the answer is to stop these unfair trade practices, not import their socialist price fixing to the US!

Socialist health systems hold down cost by rationing drugs.  They either wait a long time to make new drugs available to their people, or they are never available.  Writing in Forbes in February 2020 author Doug Schoen points out that “roughly 96% of new cancer medicines are made available in the United States, while the 16 countries used in the International Pricing Index only have 55% of new cancer medicines.  Further, patients in these 16 countries also receive these medications on average 17 months after release, whereas in the United States, patients have almost immediate access to new cancer medicines following FDA approval”.

These cold statistics translate into patient’s lives.  An HIS Markit study published in 2018 “Comparing Health Outcome Due to Drug Access: A Model in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer,” concludes that half of the gains in life expectancy we have made in fighting lung cancer, the number one cancer killer worldwide, would have been lost if the rationing policies found in Australia, Canada, France, South Korea and the United Kingdom were replicated in the US.”

Government price controls on drugs are not the answer.  But neither is doing nothing.  Fortunately, Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Congressman Greg Walden (R-Oregon 2) have introduced legislation to help. 

Their legislation, S. 3129 and H.R. 19, preserve the free-market competition which has worked so well in both Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage, but directs that more of the savings from negotiations with drug manufacturers flow directly to the consumer at the pharmacy counter in the form of immediate discounts.  They also cap the annual out-of-pocket spending Seniors must pay for prescription drugs. 

The legislation also takes steps to reduce the freeloading of other developed nations on our R&D and streamlines coordination between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Medicare to insure that new treatment reach Seniors as quickly as possible.

Doctors take an oath, “First, do no harm.”  That’s good advice for politicians and policy makers as well.  Taking steps to lower drug costs to Seniors is important.  But we must do it the right way or we will harm those we are trying to help.

The Pardon

By Sheila K Muehling

Today with coffee in hand, I opened the Sunday edition of the newspaper and what did I see but the two faces of President Trump and Joe Arpaio and a headline, “Pardon, Politics & Power.” We just can’t stop seeing the press constantly needling anything to get things riled up. So I decided to take a look at one of the humanitarian arguments MSM prints on a daily basis.

Many of the protesters have demanded Arpaio’s head on a platter as justice for the thousands of poor families who have been ripped apart. The children who’s parents have been returned to their country leaving them without a mother or a father to take care of them. The argument that the parents made a choice to come to this country illegally in hopes of staying here, falls on deaf ears. The pardoning of Joe Arpaio is a slap to the poor children who see this as injustice to their own futures.

To those children whose parents have been or will be deported I say yes, it is unfair to you and you deserve to have your parents. To those same children I say go with your parents and work hard to make a life and be successful. Your future is up to you regardless of where you live. The good thing is your parents are alive and can give you a loving hug and support as you grow to be adults no matter where you live.

But now let’s look at another use of the Presidential pardon system. How about President Obama? Over and over the accusations fly through the media that Joe Arpaio caused death and destruction of families as he rounded up the illegal population. Arpaio targeted cooks, bricklayers, gardeners, housekeepers and nannies. He took dads and moms from innocent little children. How dare he be pardoned!

Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio

Here is a list of who President Obama pardoned. As you look at the list, I want to share what I see as I compare these pardons to the pardoning of Joe Arpaio.

President Obama was a supporter of releasing men and women who trafficked in illegal drugs. I submit that more children and families were destroyed by drugs and drug trafficking than were ever destroyed by Joe Arpaio’s focus on arresting and removing illegal immigrants. If you have ever worked in the child welfare area of any state you see death and destruction. Innocent babies born drug addicted who often never get over the medical issues they face day in and day out as they shake and cry thorough early withdrawal from drugs fed to them through the mother’s bloodstream. The children who spend the first five years of their lives with doctors and hospitals, more drugs and more treatments and hours with counselors who try to help them feel normal. The children who grow into angry teenagers who never understand what a normal life is all about.

Then there are the children who face a lifetime of watching their parents spend time not on books and toys or cheering them on at their sports games but instead, spend time doing drugs and displaying out of control behavior.

Children who know when mommy and daddy are high and how to stay out of their way. Children who go to school hiding the bruises, cigarette burns and wounds inflicted on them by their parents. They face the embarrassment of soiled and torn clothing, lice infested heads, sleep deprivation, worn shoes and hungry bellies.

I support President Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio. As a taxpayer, I want to stop spending my taxes on the prosecution of an 82-year old man who believed that he was elected to enforce the law. President Trump did the right thing to put this issue behind all of us. This is over.

President Obama on the other hand put drug dealers back on the street. Most of them are probably still doing the same thing they have always done, destroying families and people. We will continue to spend our tax dollars to prosecute these same people and pay to keep them fed, clothed and entertained in the prison system. We will continue to try and heal the children who are affected by the people Obama pardoned. When will that be over, never.

Seth Leibsohn: Politicizing and Misunderstanding the Opioid Crisis

By Seth Leibsohn

The nation’s opioid crisis is real and it is serious. As Christopher Caldwell recently pointed out, “those who call the word ‘carnage’ an irresponsible exaggeration are wrong.” And so, too, are those playing politics with the crisis. Even beyond the politicization—or, perhaps, because of it—there is still a great deal of misunderstanding as to what is driving this crisis.

As for the first problem, the politics: Senator Claire McCaskill (D., MO) has announced that she is initiating an investigation of several opioid manufacturers, and is requesting “reams of information” from them. But note the one manufacturer she did not target and from which she did not request information—Mallinckrodt. Mallinckrodt, after all, is headquartered in Missouri, her own state. Odd, that. And it’s not as if Mallinckrodt is a bit player in the manufacture and sales of opioid drugs. Indeed, “it is one of the nation’s largest” producers, responsible for nearly 20 percent of the market share of opioid prescriptions. The companies McCaskill has targeted are responsible for a total market share of 5.25 percent combined. Odd, that. If she were serious about investigating pharmaceutical companies, she most certainly would be investigating the one based in her own home state which also happens to be the one responsible for most opioid sales in America.

But all of this is not even the beginning of the beginning in addressing America’s opioid crisis. For when political leaders like Senator McCaskill are not playing politics with the issue, they are too often misunderstanding it. Some of that is not their fault.

Part of the problem in addressing the opioid crisis is that the terminology can be confusing or misleading. People hear “opioid” or “prescription opioid” or “fentanyl” and begin to lump the problems all together as a crisis driven by legitimately prescribed drugs. No doubt, that is a part of the problem, but it is nowhere near the biggest part of it. Take a look at the best statistics available (taken from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the CDC):

  • In 2015, there were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths.
  • Heroin deaths constituted 12,990 of those deaths.
  • Synthetic opioids (mostly illegal fentanyl) constitute another 9,580 deaths.

Because opioid deaths usually involve the use of more than one drug, percentages and raw numbers will not neatly add up to 100% or the 33,091 deaths. As the White House Website puts it: “A portion of the overdose deaths involved both illicit opioids and prescription opioids.” But what we can see from the above is that over 68 percent of the problem is from the use of illegal drugs.  Or, as the CDC put it in December of 2016: “[T]he increase in opioid overdose death rates is driven in large part by illicit opioids, like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.”

As for the prescribed opioids, the majority of overdose deaths from those come from the diversion and illegal distribution of them. As the CDC notes: “Most people who abuse prescription opioids get them for free from a friend or relative.” The people “at highest risk of overdose” “get opioids using their own prescriptions (27 percent), from friends or relatives for free (26 percent), buying from friends or relatives (23 percent), or buying from a drug dealer (15 percent).” Thus, for the population that overdoses from opioid prescriptions, 64 percent abuse them from a diverted or illegal source. In other words, the abuse of opioid prescriptions that leads to overdose deaths involving a patient acquiring a legal prescription and misusing that prescription on himself is less than 30 percent of the prescription problem and constitutes about 15 percent of the overall opioid overdose problem.

This is backed up, as well, by the most recent testimony of the Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC, Dr. Debra Houry. Just last month, she testified to Congress stating,

Although prescription opioids were driving the increase in overdose deaths for many years, more recently, the large increase in overdose deaths has been due mainly to increases in heroin and synthetic opioid (other than methadone) overdose deaths, not prescription opioids. Importantly, the available data indicate these increases are largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Again, the main driver of our current crisis is the use and abuse of illegal drugs, not legally prescribed drugs. Indeed, there is some common sense to this. Almost anyone who has had a surgical procedure was likely given a legal opioid like fentanyl. As one prominent anesthesiologist recently wrote: “To an anesthesiologist, fentanyl is as familiar as a Philips screwdriver is to a carpenter; it is an indispensable tool in my toolbox. It is the most commonly used painkiller during surgery. If you’ve had surgery, it is more likely than not that you have had fentanyl.” And yet the vast majority of people who have had surgical procedures do not have substance abuse or opioid abuse problems.

Yes, there is a popular reverse gateway theory regarding heroin abuse—i.e., that high percentages of heroin users started by abusing prescription opioid drugs. But that is misleading and, indeed, looks at the problem from the wrong direction.

As Dr. Robert DuPont from the Institute for Behavior and Health has put it:

[W]hile 80% of heroin users used a prescription opioid before they first used heroin, the vast majority, over 96%, of people who have used a prescription opioid non-medically [i.e., illegally] have not transitioned to using heroin.  Five years after the initial nonmedical use of a prescription opioid, only 3.6% ever used any heroin.  Among prescription opiate users, the people most vulnerable to switching to heroin are those who are also abusers of other drugs including alcohol.

In other words, the vast majority of prescription opioid patients do not transition to the use of an illegal drug like heroin.

Other data bear this out, as well. For example, according to an important article in the January 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that “[A]lthough the majority of current heroin users report having used prescription opioids non-medically before they initiated heroin use, heroin use among people who use prescription opioids for non-medical reasons is rare, and the transition to heroin use appears to occur at a low rate.”

The numbers and factors detailed here are not meant to diminish or emphasize any serious or particular effort to address the variety of opioid issues contributing to the present crisis but, rather, to detail the full picture of the problem in sharp relief. Playing politics with this crisis will get us nowhere and waste a lot of time, energy, and resources. Public confusion about what is leading the epidemic and behind the majority of cases driving the crisis is another problem altogether, made worse by playing politics with it. It is time, past time, to get serious about this issue and take it on in a serious manner.

There are a great many efforts aimed at dealing with pill mills and irresponsible and rogue sales of prescription opioids. That is all to the good. But those efforts will not solve the problem or even get to the roots of the largest parts of it. A responsible and successful prevention campaign is needed and must be combined with serious drug education policies and messages along with a greater border and law enforcement effort. For concerned Americans, first and foremost, it is our duty to become educated about the issue.

Seth Leibsohn is a Contributing Editor to American Greatness and is the host of The Seth & Chris Show, heard nightly on 960am/KKNT in Phoenix. You can connect with Seth on Twitter: @SethLeibsohn

Arizona Catholic Conference: Bishops’ Statement Opposing the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana

Arizona Catholic Conference
ARIZONA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE BISHOPS’ STATEMENT OPPOSING THE LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA

The Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference oppose the campaign to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona because it is harmful to both children and families in Arizona.

Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana sends a message to children and young people that drug use is socially and morally acceptable. As people of faith, we must speak out against this effort and the damaging effects its passage would have on the children and families of Arizona.

Studies have shown that adolescents who use marijuana have significant differences in brain structure and cognitive functioning compared to those who do not use marijuana and experience up to an eight-point drop in IQ. Furthermore, based on what happened in just two years after Colorado legalized marijuana, it is estimated that if Arizona passes this measure, tens of thousands of additional 8th graders here will smoke marijuana for the first time.

Marijuana-related traffic accidents and other problems are also likely to dramatically increase if recreational marijuana use is legalized. In Colorado for example, marijuana-related traffic deaths dramatically increased after recreational marijuana was legalized. Additionally, Colorado witnessed similar dramatic increases in hospitalizations and emergency room visits related to marijuana usage after recreational use was legalized.

In states that have legalized marijuana, there has also been an increase in the use of harder drugs like cocaine and heroin since marijuana was legalized, which only further increased societal costs.

For the reasons mentioned above, and others, it is anticipated that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona will lead to more abuse by teens, more emergency room visits, more traffic deaths, and more societal costs. Accordingly, due to the detrimental effect it would have on children, families, and all of society, we strongly oppose this dangerous proposal.

Most Rev. Eduardo A. Nevares
Auxiliary Bishop of Phoenix

Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix

Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas
Bishop of Tucson

Most Rev. James S. Wall
Bishop of Gallup

Center for Arizona Policy: Arizonans Are Smarter Than the Marijuana Monoploy

Center for Arizona Policy

Those Who Stand To Make Millions Off Pot-Laced Candy & Amped-Up Marijuana Underestimate Commonsense

PHOENIX – A couple hundred thousand signatures and the Million-dollar Marijuana Monopoly thinks it’s a done deal. Arizonans will be toking by year’s end and they, themselves, will be rolling in the dough. Not so fast says Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod, “When voters learn the devastating consequences of legalizing recreational pot they won’t be so easily deceived by those trying to make a buck at society’s expense.”

For example, when gathering the signatures, the collectors probably didn’t tell voters a few things. Such as:

  • The only ones who will make money are the folks behind the big push. The dispensaries are monopolized.
  • Half the pot sold in Colorado is in the form of candy – gummy bears and lollipops spiked with ten times the THC as an average joint. Children in Colorado are ending up in the ER for accidentally and innocently overdosing.
  • Pot shops will pop up all over town. Within two years after legalizing marijuana in Colorado, pot shops now outnumber, Starbucks, liquor stores, and public schools.
  • Any money the state makes off legalizing pot will be outpaced by added expenses due to increased traffic accidents, workplace accidents, crime, rehab, needed regulation, and huge increases in accidental overdoses when kids mistake pot-laced candy for the real thing.

The marijuana monopoly likes to downplay the drug, stating it’s safer than alcohol and doesn’t hurt anyone. But Herrod calls that a dangerous deception, “This isn’t the kind of pot they smoked at Woodstock. Today’s marijuana is at least five times stronger. Even the DEA lists marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD, and meth. Are we going to legalize them too?” Herrod continued, “It has been proven, more people use marijuana when it is legal. That’s why Colorado is now the number one state for marijuana use. Arizona shouldn’t compete for that title.”

The marijuana monopoly probably did tell voters a few things when collecting all of those signatures. They tout regulation, revenue, elimination of the drug cartel, and black markets. But the truth is:

  • Alcohol and tobacco are also regulated and kids still get them both. Prescription drugs are regulated, and also highly abused. If regulation is supposed to also keep pot out of the hands of children, why are they putting it in candy?
  • The only people who make money off pot for pleasure are the monopolized dispensary owners.
  • The black market in Colorado thrives, supplying other states where it is illegal.Nebraska and Oklahoma have filed lawsuits against CO because their jails are being overwhelmed by smugglers getting caught crossing the border.

Herrod concluded, “Arizonans are smart. The commonsense conclusion they will reach – once they get the facts – is that amped-up pot and pot-laced candy are dangerous for our kids, detrimental to our society and way of life, and cost a whole lot more than they offer. The best way to keep Arizona’s youth safe is to keep marijuana illegal.”

Center for Arizona Policy promotes and defends the foundational values of life, marriage and family, and religious freedom. For more information, visit azpolicy.org.

Legalizing Marijuana in Arizona Will Nullify Education Results

By Paul Boyer

Paul BoyerThe marijuana legalization movement in Arizona is relying on a specious study to make the case for recreational marijuana at the ballot next year. Their study says marijuana is 114 times safer than alcohol. Interestingly, it also says meth is ten times safer than alcohol, while heroin and cocaine are twice as safe.  On that logic, why not make meth, heroin, and cocaine like alcohol, as well?

Meanwhile, serious peer reviewed research regarding the effects of marijuana has been shown to increase high school drop outs, lower IQ, induce memory loss, and in some cases cause paranoia and psychosis – especially among adolescents.

For those of us concerned with the state of education in Arizona, this is extremely alarming. With considerable discussion about Arizona’s education funding, along with high school and college graduation rates, we should be working to improve our state of education, not exacerbate an already bad situation by legalizing a substance detrimental to every outcome we want for our children.  And make no mistake, legalizing this dangerous drug for adults will lead to more use by children, just as we see with alcohol.

States that have marijuana-friendly legislation have seen a dramatic spike in marijuana exposure to children.  The Journal Clinical Pediatrics found an over 600 percent increase in the amount of marijuana exposure to children six and under in such states. That study suggests, “the rate of marijuana exposure among children is associated with the number of marijuana users.” We don’t need that here in Arizona.

Nor can the toxic health, educational, and behavioral impacts to children be overstated. A 2014 New England Journal of Medicine study lists the damaging health effects of just short term marijuana use, including: impaired short term memory and motor coordination, altered judgment with an increased risk of catching and transmitting sexually transmitted diseases, and paranoia and psychosis in high doses. And let’s not forget that today’s marijuana is much more potent than that of previous decades.  We are not talking about Woodstock and commonly grown marijuana anymore, we are talking about a high potency drug.

Similarly, long term or heavy use effects of marijuana include: addiction, altered brain development, poor educational outcomes with an increased risk of dropping out of school, cognitive impairment with lower IQs among frequent users during adolescence, and diminished life satisfaction and achievement.

And who will have to address the consequences of legalization? All of us, including parents, teachers, and an already over-burdened healthcare system will have to pick up the pieces left in the wake of legalization’s destruction.

Given all our debates about funding education in Arizona, one is left asking what the point of all this would be if we introduce a substance into our society that will nullify, if not reverse, everything we have worked so hard to improve when it comes to our children’s education.  Whatever plan we settle on with education, adding marijuana into the mix will render this debate, and its result, essentially pointless.

State Representative Paul Boyer represents Legislative District 20, which includes Glendale and North Phoenix. He is the Chair of the House Education Committee, a member of the House Health Committee, and teaches 10th grade Humane Letters.