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Kentucky lawmakers advance medical cannabis legalization bill

Capitol statehouse frankfort
J. Tyler Franklin
A medical cannabis bill in the Kentucky Senate is gathering steam.

A bill that would legalize medical cannabis passed out of committee by a wide margin today. Lawmakers who have been long skeptical of permitting the substance signaled support for it.

A bill legalizing medical cannabis passed out of committee by a wide margin Tuesday and will now advance to the Senate.

Senate Bill 47 would legalize using and possessing cannabis to treat a few conditions like PTSD, seizure disorders and muscle spasms, as long as it can’t be smoked.

Eric Crawford, a Mason County resident and a quadriplegic who suffers from muscle spasms, told lawmakers medical cannabis helps him manage pain from his condition.

“Cannabis allows me to be a productive member of society and give back a little joy to the world. I’ve been crippled for over 10 years, I know what is best for me. I don’t wanna be high, I just wanna feel better,” he said.

Republican Senator Stephen West from Paris introduced the bill, which would also provide guidelines for growing, dispensing and selling the substance.

West’s proposal has 13 co-sponsors in the 38-member Senate.

Sandra Marlow suffers from ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that has no known cure or treatment. She told legislators the bill needs to pass for the sake of Kentuckians who suffer from painful conditions.

“This disease will take my life. I ask that my days be as comfortable as possible with access to the THC tincture that is the only thing that gives me relief,” she said, referring to a psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

Senate Majority Floor leader Damon Thayer from Georgetown described himself as a longtime opponent of legalizing medical cannabis. He received huge applause when he voted in favor of the measure.

“This has been a tough vote for me. I’m very concerned about the lack of science. But this was not a recreational bill. I’m just trying to show a little empathy and sympathy in my old age,” he said.

Thayer added he wasn’t sure if there were enough votes to pass the bill on the Senate floor.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, has also opposed legalization of the substance in the past, but said earlier this year he would support medical cannabis use in end-of-life circumstances.

Bills legalizing medical cannabis passed the House with bipartisan support in 2020 and 2022, but the measure failed in the Senate both years.

The legislature has a few days left to pass bills before the governor’s veto period.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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