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Medical Marijuana Approved by Kentucky House

For the first time in Kentucky history, a bill to legalize medical marijuana came to a vote on the floor of the Kentucky House. Apparently the first time was a charm.

Members of the House voted 65-30 to approve the legalization of medical marijuana under House Bill 136, along with eight floor amendments to the bill. The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

“HB 136 when it is passed, which I hope that it is, will be the tightest medical marijuana bill in the country,” said Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) who shares primary sponsorship of the measure with Rep. John Sims Jr. (D-Flemingsburg).

Nemes said that he and Sims have spent years meeting with stakeholders to ensure that the legislation addresses their concerns.

“We’ve met with stakeholders from law enforcement, constituents, regular folks … patients, physicians, chiropractors. I mean, you name it, we’ve been there,” he said.

The bill as passed by the House would extensively clarify state policies for cultivation, processing, sale, distribution, and use of medical marijuana. Licensing of cannabis dispensaries is covered, as is maintenance of a cardholder registry for cannabis users.

Smoking of medical marijuana would be prohibited under HB 136.  The bill instead would allow the drug to be dispensed as “edibles” such as gummies, oils, or similar products.  Customers would be limited to a month’s supply at one time. 

Keeping with the sponsors’ commitment to make HB 136 a public health bill and not a revenue maker, Nemes said excise taxes and all other revenue created by the bill would go to regulation of the program and nothing else. Additionally, local governments would have the last say in whether medical marijuana businesses operate within their jurisdiction.

Among those House members voting against the proposal was former Kentucky State Trooper and current pastor Rep. Chris Fugate (R-Chavies). He cited the fact that marijuana remains a federally controlled substance that isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a reason for his vote.

“Marijuana, no matter how we look at it, is against federal law” and joins heroin, LSD, and ectasy as a Schedule I narcotic, said Fugate. It is also a “gateway drug,” he said, referring to drugs that are believed by some to lead to abuse of more dangerous drugs later on.

Voting is support of the bill was Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt). The licensed pharmacist said he supports the bill on behalf of individuals like his adult brother diagnosed years ago with cerebral palsy.

Goforth said he sees his brother suffer on a regular basis from “adverse side effects” caused by FDA-approved anticonvulsants and other drugs.

“If I can give him a little bit of relief from the FDA-approved medication that has caused those adverse side effects for him, to control those conditions, I’m going to do it. I have to do it,” he said.

From the Legislative Research Commission

Photo: Jason Nemes (R-Louisville)