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Kentucky Lawmakers Propose Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill

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A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers has proposed a medical marijuana bill that would allow people to buy the drug from licensed dispensaries if a doctor recommends it.

Medical marijuana legislation has been discussed in recent years, but has never gained enough momentum to pass the preliminary stages of the Kentucky legislature.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville and one of the bill’s sponsors, said that a majority of the 100-member House support the bill.

“If we get a vote, the numbers will be above 60. A strong majority of Kentuckians, a strong majority of House members support medical marijuana,” Nemes said.

House Bill 136 would allow doctors to recommend marijuana to Kentuckians who have “debilitating illnesses and excruciating pain,” but it wouldn’t create a list of conditions that would make patients eligible.

Some patients would be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants if they can prove they are financially strained.

Counties would be allowed to hold local option elections to bar distributors from opening up in their borders.

Thirty-three states have legalized medical marijuana, including neighboring states of West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.

But cannabis is still considered to be a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, saying it has no currently accepted medical use.

Rep. Diane St. Onge, a Republican from Ft. Wright, said the health issues of Kentuckians who could benefit from marijuana are not being considered.

“Do we wait for the Schedule 1 to be removed?” St. Onge said. “How many more years will this take that people will be in pain and not have any relief from this?”

Leaders of the Republican-led legislature have expressed skepticism about legalizing marijuana in any way.

House Speaker David Osborne wouldn’t predict if the bill would pass, but said he could personally support it if “it was very tightly written and lots of precautions.”

“There’s still considerable amount of support. Whether there’s enough support to pass the bill, I can’t answer the question,” Osborne said.

Senate President Robert Stivers said he hasn’t seen enough studies showing marijuana’s benefits.

“I’m not opposed to something that has medicinal or therapeutic value,” Stivers said. “But just to say it does something, it makes you feel a little bit better? It may, but what are the side effects?”

According to a Pew Charitable Trust study, 62 percent of people in the country favor legalizing marijuana use.
Nearly 80 percent of Kentucky voters support allowing medical marijuana, according to a  2012 Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

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