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Fischer Joins Metro Council Group To Support Legalizing Medical Marijuana

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The push to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky has growing support in Louisville.

Mayor Greg Fischer is in favor of legislation that could pave the way for permitting marijuana consumption with a doctor's prescription.

"Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana, in the wake of research suggesting it has medical benefits," he said in a statement Monday night. "I support measures that would allow that in Kentucky — while ensuring that it’s tightly regulated to prevent its misuse."

Fischer's statement came hours after a bipartisan group of ten Louisville Metro Council members came out in support of a state bill that would legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky. The Metro Council members say access to the substance would help those suffering from chronic or debilitating illnesses and military veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.

District 9 Councilman Bill Hollander is the lead sponsor of the resolution asking the Kentucky General Assembly to pass the proposed legislation.

"[Medical marijuana is] not currently legal in Kentucky," Hollander said. "It is in most states and I think that we should join the rest of the country and make that effective treatment available to people."

Two Democratic lawmakers introduced House Bill 166 last month, and the bill currently has 16 Democratic sponsors. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate;that measure has bipartisan support. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimeshas also said she supports the effort. Similar attempts in recent years have not succeeded.

Democratic council members joining Hollander in supporting the bill are President David James of District 6, Barbara Sexton Smith of District 4, Brandon Coan of District 8, Pat Mulvihill of District 10, Vicki Aubrey Welch of District 13, Cindi Fowler of District 14 and Marianne Butler of District 15. Republicans Angela Leet of District 7, who is running for mayor this year, and Scott Reed of District 16 also signed on to sponsor the resolution.

In the resolution, the group cited research from the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine that showed a 25 percent drop in opioid deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana policies.

"The Metro Council urges the Kentucky General Assembly to adopt House Bill 166 or any other legislation that would legalize medical cannabis in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and provide for the care, comfort and relief of any Kentuckian who may benefit," the resolution reads.

Hollander said he expects more Council members to sign on to back the resolution and that he sees bipartisan support for medical cannabis in Frankfort. He said constituents have sent letters and spoken at Council meetings to describe the need and utility of medical cannabis.

It could also benefit Kentucky military veterans, whose suicide rate was 10 percent higher than the national average in 2014, the resolution said.

Hollander emphasized the proposed legislation only covers cannabis for medical, not recreational, purposes.

"When a physician thinks that medical cannabis can help someone with pain management, they should be able to prescribe that," Hollander said. "I think there's significant support among the population, of Kentucky and everywhere else."

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.