Photo illustration from MedicalMarijuana.com
Kentucky would be the 34th state to make marijuana legal for medicinal purposes, under a bill the state House passed Thursday by a vote of 65 to 30. The long-debated proposal has never gotten this far before, and it probably faces a tougher go in the Senate.
“The bill’s sponsor, Republican Jason Nemes of Louisville, and co-sponsor, Democrat John Sims of Flemingsburg, faced opposition from socially conservative lawmakers who are philosophically opposed to any legislation that could expand the legal use of marijuana and fear that a push to legalize recreational use of the drug would come next,” reports Daniel Desrochers of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“I hope it doesn’t, but you know it’s going to come,” said Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, in a debate that lasted more than an hour. “If you lift the tent up a little and let the nose in, it’s not going to stop.”
Nemes tried to address such concerns by having Dr. Jeffery Block, a University of Miami anesthesiologist, “testify in committee that the bill would contain enough regulations to prevent it from being abused,” Desrochers points out. “The bill is intended to only allow edibles or pills — it prohibits smoking the marijuana — and forbids colorful packaging that could attract children. It does not allow people to grow marijuana in their homes, but does allow for sale of the marijuana flower, which is often used to smoke.”
“The bill would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for a list of conditions yet to be determined by a panel of 13 people — eight doctors, a pharmacist and four public advocates,” Desrochers notes. One of the mostly minor amendments that the House added to the bill “ensured that the list of conditions would include chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and nausea or vomiting. All of those conditions have substantial or conclusive evidence that they are effectively treated by marijuana, according to Block.”
Nemes told the House, “House Bill 136, if it is passed, would be the tightest medical marijuana bill in the country.” But Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, a pharmacist, “peppered Nemes with questions about the bill and raised concerns that medical marijuana would not be regulated” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” Desrochers reports. “Supporters said the bill would help ease the suffering of many Kentuckians.”
The bill would “bring relief to many citizens in this commonwealth,” said Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green.
“All but two Democratic members of the House voted for the bill, as did a slight majority of the Republican members present,” notes Joe Sonka of the Louisville Courier Journal. The bill got more votes from Democrats (34) than from Republicans (31) in a House that has a strong Republican majority; that count could hurt its prospects in the even more strongly Republican Senate.
Senate President Robert Stivers has said more research is needed to prove marijuana’s medicinal value, but more recently he said the bill has a “narrow path” to passage in the Senate. “It’s a balancing test of do the goods outweigh the bads,” he said. “And we just haven’t had anything done on that.”
“The renamed Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control would implement and regulate the new state program,” Sonka notes. At least 25 medical-marijuana dispensaries would be set up around the state. Federal law prohibits pharmacies from selling marijuana, even in the states that have legalized it for medical use.