Medical marijuana bill passes Ky. Senate committee

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 12:49 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WSAZ) - The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow people with serious medical conditions to use medicinal cannabis in Kentucky.

Senate Bill 47 calls on the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to implement, oversee and regulate the medical cannabis program, which would be clear to launch in January 2025.

Several medical conditions could qualify someone to use the product, including cancer, chronic and other types of pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, chronic nausea, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions approved by the Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research.

Before accessing cannabis, patients would have to register and receive approval for a special identification card. Patients under 18 years old would not be allowed to possess, purchase, or acquire medicinal cannabis without the assistance of a designated caregiver.

The bill would also create separate licenses for cultivators, dispensers, and producers.

Sen. Stephen West, a sponsor of Senate Bill 47, testified that stakeholders worked extensively with the Fraternal Order of Police to make sure police officers can distinguish between medicinal cannabis and illegal varieties. Use of the product will be tracked through Kentucky’s controlled substance monitoring system, which is known as KASPER.

Senator Stephen West testified on  Tuesday in front of the Seante Licensing and Occupations...
Senator Stephen West testified on Tuesday in front of the Seante Licensing and Occupations Committee.(Kentucky LRC)

Under the proposed bill, the department shall maintain a confidential list of the persons to whom the 13 departments have issued registry identification cards and their addresses, telephone numbers, and registry identification numbers.

“Persons shall not operate cars, vessels, or aircraft under the influence. Smoking is not allowed in this bill,” West said.

Proponents testified in committee that cannabis is crucial to help them cope with pain and other serious medical conditions.

Eric Crawford, who suffers from quadriplegia and has advocated for similar legislation for years, said cannabis relaxes his violent muscle spasms, relieves his constant pain, and helps him leave a higher quality of life.

“I’ve been crippled for almost 30 years,” he said. “I know what is best for me. I don’t want to be high, I just want to feel better.”

Legislation critics questioned the medical efficacy of the product.

Michael Johnson, a senior policy advisor for The Family Foundation, said he is compassionate toward those who suffer from pain, but more research is needed.

“I shared in the heartache of sitting with a close family member as they received treatment for cancer and watching them endure that incredibly difficult battle for survival,” he testified. “But the reality is that there is insufficient scientific evidence that marijuana is an effective pain-relieving agent or that it is safe and effective as medication.”

One lawmaker who is a physician, Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, said he could not support the bill at this time.

“Marijuana and its derivatives are not approved by the FDA for any medical use,” he said. “There really have been no long-term, double blind studies to support any of the anecdotal evidence that’s been presented today.”

But Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the bill had limited the number of afflictions for which medical cannabis may be used, and that the narrow focus of the bill earned his vote of support – “for the sake of those who suffer.”

“I have been a longtime opponent of legislation related to marijuana,” he said. “I came into this body 20 years ago with a strong set of core beliefs. I grew up in the 1980s during a very strong anti-drug culture. If you’re a pot smoker and you’re looking for me to help get the camel’s nose under the tent so you can smoke your pot legally in Kentucky, I’m not your guy.”

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, also voted for the measure. He has been a longtime supporter of medicinal cannabis.

“Today is just satisfying and gratifying that I kept my word to those people, to my constituents, and have seen this get past the committee. In some ways, this is personal for me because I had a wife who I lost to cancer and I saw her in pain constantly,” he said. “I understand the pain that cancer patients feel, and this will help alleviate that pain.”

Senate Bill 47 passed out of committee 8-3. It now heads to the full Senate.

To read a copy of the bill, click here.