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Abstinence, Marijuana Move Forward in Frankfort

A bill that would require the inclusion of abstinence education in any human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases curriculum passed the Senate by a 32-5 vote.

“Abstinence is the only measure which is 100 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually-transmitted diseases,” said bill sponsor Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield). “In choosing not to be in a monogamous relationship increases the probability of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease exponentially with each new partner.”

Responding to opposition to the legislation, known as Senate Bill 71, Meredith emphasized it would not limit sex education to an abstinence-only curriculum. He said he just wanted to make sure abstinence is included in comprehensive sex education.

Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) stood in support of SB 71.

“This bill is a very simple bill,” he said. “It is eleven lines. It is very simple to read. It is very simple to understand. There is nothing in this bill that suggests abstinence only.”

President Pro Tem Sen. Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) also stood in support of the bill. He said that if SB 71 becomes law it will be included in comprehensive sexual health education standards that are currently under review by public education officials.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel (D-Louisville) spoke against SB 71. She said she was fearful that only abstinence would be taught in some school districts if the bill becomes law – despite whatever curriculum standards are developed.

“I think we all know information is power,” Harper said. “I would like to know why we don’t want to empower our young folks with all the information they need to make good decisions about their bodies. What are we afraid of? No matter what we legislate, sex outside marriage is going to happen.”

Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Paducah) voted for SB 71.

“This bill does nothing to limit what is taught in sex education classes in schools,” he said. “As a society, if we don’t set firm baselines for our kids to follow, where are we headed?”

Medical marijauna resolution clears hurdle

The Kentucky House wants the federal government to accelerate research on the “safety and effectiveness” of medical marijuana.

That is at least one message found in House Concurrent Resolution 34 sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley (R-Russell) a licensed pharmacist who cautioned his House colleagues against adopting drug policy without thorough study. Doing so can have serious consequences, he said, citing birth defects caused by the drug thalidomide in the 1950s and 1960s as one example.

“When we have not had the most careful study, we have ended up with unintended consequences,” Bentley said.

The drug at the focus of HCR 34 is medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, which has been approved in some form in 29 states and the District of Columbia. At least one bill to establish a medical cannabis program in Kentucky has been filed this session.

Under HCR 34, the General Assembly would ask federal drug control agencies to “expedite research on the safety and effectiveness of the use of marijuana for certain health purposes.” That research could help guide the General Assembly in developing “evidence-based and scientifically sound” medical marijuana policy, according to the resolution.

“How can we as a legislators make a responsible decision? The fact is we can’t,” without comprehensive research, said Bentley.

Rep. James Kay (D-Versailles) who voted for the resolution, said he believes research on medical marijuana is needed but questioned the policies of the Federal Drug Administration, or FDA, one of the agencies called upon for guidance in HCR 34. He said it is the FDA that has “time and time again” approved opioid drugs which have left many Kentucky communities in crisis.

“I think we need a similar resolution that says the FDA needs to get these dangerous, lethal opiates in check,” said Kay.

HCR 34 passed the House 73-5 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. If approved by both chambers and the governor, the resolution would be sent to the FDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse and Drug Enforcement Administration.

From the Legislative Research Commission