After years of setbacks, a bill to legalize medical marijuana passed a full chamber in the Kentucky General Assembly by a vote of 65 to 30. It will now head to the state senate, then on to the governor’s desk.
This is a Historic Marijuana Vote in Kentucky
The measure, which marks the first time an MMJ bill passed either legislative chamber in Kentucky, would allow physicians to prescribe medical cannabis to patients suffering from qualifying conditions as yet to be determined. Smokable marijuana, however, will remain prohibited under the bill.
Lead sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville), said the medical marijuana bill, House Bill 136, would help give relief to many Kentuckians suffering from health conditions that could be legitimately treated with prescription cannabis.
“We have momentum but we’re not there yet,” Nemes, told reporters after the vote on Feb. 20, 2020.
The proposal now needs to go to the Senate where both chambers are controlled by Republicans. If approved, it will move on Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, for his signature.
Cannabis prohibition makes criminals out of innocent people
During the committee hearings, Nemes asked his fellow legislators to consider what they would do if they were told by a doctor that a loved one had a condition that could be helped by the use of medical marijuana.
Nemes said he would break the current law prohibiting MMJ in a “New York minute” to help a loved one but wants to see this law pass so those individuals don’t have to be criminals in their own state.
A Democratic representative from Louisville agreed. “Like any medicine, it works for some; for some others it may not be the best thing," Rep. Al Gentry said. “But let's let the patient and their caregiver make that decision. I think they're capable of doing that."
Prior to the House vote, the measure significantly jumped forward when a Judiciary Committee approved it on Feb. 12, 2020 in a 17-1 vote.
Kentucky Cannabis Advocates
Supporters pointed to advocates and consistent grassroots support for legal medical cannabis for people battling debilitating medical conditions such as epilepsy, chronic pain, intolerable muscle spasms and more.
They filled the committee room and had their say.
Eric Crawford was one of them. He said he wanted to stop being considered a criminal.
"A lot of stress. Worrying about the police when you're doing the right thing," said Crawford who testified before the House Judiciary Committee. He told them about a 1994 accident that left him paralyzed and how medical marijuana helps him to cope.
"I choose to use cannabis as my medicine, instead of addictive opioids," said Crawford, who gave similar testimony when House Bill 136 was up for approval in 2019.
After the recent House approval, Crawford celebrated although mindful of an even bigger hurdle to overcome in the Senate.
“This is a big day. This is history. ... Onward to the Senate," Crawford said.