Medical Marijuana Advances in Legislature, Could Still Pass This Session

Frankfort, Ky.–The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee in Kentucky has approved a bill that could pave the way for legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the state. Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, would allow people suffering from serious medical conditions, including cancer, chronic and other types of pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, chronic nausea, and post-traumatic stress disorder to use medicinal cannabis.

Sen. West said the measure has been a “long road” and he only got involved in the issue after his constituents filed a resolution in Mason County. The bill would create a medicinal cannabis program, to be launched in January 2025, which would be overseen by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The bill would also require patients to register and obtain approval for a special identification card before accessing cannabis. Patients under the age of 18 would need a designated caregiver to possess, purchase, or acquire medicinal cannabis. The bill would also create separate licenses for cultivators, dispensers, and producers.

Supporters of the bill testified that cannabis was crucial to helping them cope with pain and other serious medical conditions. Eric Crawford, who suffers from quadriplegia, said cannabis relaxes his violent muscle spasms, relieves his constant pain, and helps him lead a higher quality of life. Crawford said he didn’t want to be high, he just wanted to feel better.

Critics of the legislation questioned the medical efficacy of the product. Michael Johnson, senior policy advisor for The Family Foundation, said more research is needed before legalizing medical marijuana. “There really have been no long-term, double-blind studies to support any of the anecdotal evidence that’s been presented today,” he testified.

One lawmaker who is also a physician, Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, said he could not support the bill at this time, citing insufficient scientific evidence that marijuana is an effective pain-relieving agent or that it is safe and effective as medication.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he had been a long-time opponent of legislation related to marijuana, but he voted in favor of the bill for the sake of those who suffer. Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, also voted for the measure. Thomas has been a longtime supporter of medicinal cannabis and said the passing of the bill was satisfying and gratifying.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, comments on Senate Bill 47, which would allow people with certain medical conditions to use medicinal cannabis in Kentucky, during the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee. (LRC PIO)

The bill will now be sent to the full Senate for further debate and voting. If passed, Kentucky would join 36 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana.

It must clear the Senate by Thursday to have a chance of passing into law this session.

Top Photo: Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris , (center) testifies before a packed committee room on Senate Bill 47, which would allow people with certain medical conditions to use medicinal cannabis in Kentucky. The bill was heard in the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee. (LRC)