Kentucky Legislature to Consider Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Bill faces an uphill battle in the state's Republican-controlled House and Senate
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Kentucky Secretary of State Advocates for Approval of Legalization

Cannabis advocates in Kentucky caught a big break earlier this week when state legislators introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana. The bill is the result of a task force led by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes; the group heard numerous stories of Kentuckians who believe that medical cannabis can and has saved their lives. The legislation’s lead sponsor is Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg.

Qualifying Conditions For Medical Marijuana Not Determined

The bill states that people with certain debilitating conditions will be able to obtain a prescription for medical cannabis; it would allow patients to grow up to 12 plants in a locked and enclosed facility. After listening to dozens of “heartbreaking” testimonies from citizens - many of whom are on opioid painkillers - Grimes decided Kentucky must approve medical marijuana.

"Kentuckians are begging for an alternative to opioids and prescriptions," Grimes said during a rally at the state capitol. "The natural remedy is what they are asking for to help with their illness and ailments."

Bill Also Aims to Fight Opiate Addiction in Kentucky

Grimes went on to add that the opioid crisis is especially serious in Kentucky. The state Kentucky had more than 1,400 drug overdose deaths in 2016, a 39 percent increase from three years ago.

Eric Crawford, who served on the task force, brought a large bag of prescription pill bottles to the event. He admits using illegally after he was disabled in a car wreck and is desperate for a natural and effective way to treat his pain.

“Using marijuana medicinally is calming, better, and it’s safer,” Crawford said.

Gaining Support From Republicans Could Pose a Challenge

Despite a companion bill expected to be introduced in the Kentucky state senate, medical marijuana still faces an uphill battle. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican, has little confidence the bill would pass.

"I am a 'no' on medicinal marijuana at this time, pending further scientific information that could change my mind," said Thayer, R-Georgetown, in an interview with U.S. News & World Report.

"There's still a stigma around marijuana as a gateway drug," he added.