Kentucky Senate Committee Advances Medical Marijuana Bill: A Victory for Advocates After a Decade-Long Fight

Medical marijuana is one step closer to becoming a reality in Kentucky. On Tuesday morning, the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee voted to send the medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 47, to the Senate floor for consideration. The bill had its first reading Tuesday afternoon and will have second reading Wednesday.

For one Eastern Kentucky couple who have been fighting for medical marijuana for 10 years, the vote was significant. Eric Crawford of Maysville, who uses medical marijuana for relief from injuries suffered from a vehicle crash, and his wife Michelle joined a packed committee hearing in Frankfort Tuesday morning as lawmakers took up medical marijuana legislation. After fighting for the issue for 10 years, Crawford said he was in shock after the committee advanced the bill.

Senate Bill 47 calls on the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to implement, oversee and regulate the medicinal cannabis program, which would be clear to launch in January 2025, and it gives officials great latitude to develop regulations and implement the legislation. Several medical conditions could qualify someone to use the product, including cancer, chronic and other types of pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, chronic nausea and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Before accessing cannabis, patients would have to register and receive approval for a special identification card. Patients under 18 years old would not be allowed to possess, purchase or acquire medicinal cannabis without the assistance of a designated caregiver. The bill would also create separate licenses for cultivators, dispensers and producers.

While the Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, who is a vocal opponent to marijuana, surprised many by voting “yes” for medical marijuana. He said that the fact that it is non-combustible and cannot be smoked was a big thing for him. The narrowly focused bill has just a handful of afflictions, and he believed it could be used by people and be beneficial.

The House has already passed medical marijuana legislation in previous legislative sessions, and the hope is the Senate will now do the same. “Sometimes the wheels of progress turn slow,” Sen. Stephen West, R-Bourbon County, the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 47, said. “I’ve learned a lot about the issue and realize that this is not a bad thing. This is something that can be used by our people and can be beneficial,” he added.

Representative Jason Nemes, R-Jefferson County, said he talked with thousands of people, and he knows it is going to help them. “People just want to be better. They want to feel better, and that is what this is going to do,” Nemes said.

The earliest the bill can be voted on is Thursday, but with only five days left in the General Assembly, supporters are not ready yet to declare victory. Nevertheless, this step is a significant milestone for medical marijuana advocates in Kentucky. If passed, it could provide relief for many individuals suffering from debilitating medical conditions. (Source)

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