Although Kentucky has struggled for the past several years to get any attention from the General Assembly on the issue of medical marijuana, the cause will have stronger reinforcement in 2016.
Earlier this week, former Congressman Mike Ward announced the formation of Legalize Kentucky Now, a group seeking to “influence policy, public perception, and elected officials” in an effort to legalize the leaf for medicinal purposes in the Bluegrass State. The nonprofit organization will attempt to persuade lawmakers during the current session, which got underway on Tuesday in the capital of Frankfort, to get serious about approving legislation that allows physicians to recommend marijuana to their patients.
“While no one policy solution can solve every problem, legalizing medical marijuana will make a real difference across a range of issues: increased tax dollars, compassionate use by those suffering from illness, reduce the over reliance on prescription pain narcotics that can lead to addiction and heroin and is ruining our communities, and the social justice effects of decriminalization will benefit Kentuckians of all races and economic classes,” reads a statement on the organization’s website.
Ward, who became a believer in medical marijuana more than two decades ago, after seeing how it helped his brother cope with AIDS, told the Courier-Journal that legalization in the Bluegrass State “is absolutely something that is going to happen,” it is just a matter of putting together the right proposal with the power to go the distance.
Ever since last year’s gubernatorial election, there has been a great deal of hope that Kentucky lawmakers would make a major push in 2016 to try and establish some type of comprehensive medical marijuana program. That’s because right before Republican Governor Matt Bevin was elected into office, he suggested during a debate against Democrat Jack Conway that because there was “unequivocal medical evidence” that marijuana has therapeutic benefits, he would support a bill that allowed the herb to “be prescribed like any other prescription drug.”
There was some concern, however, that Bevin’s decision to side with the issue was simply a way to bag the election, but according to The Lexington Herald Leader, the Governor is still ready to put his support behind the right piece of legislation.
"I've been very clear from the beginning that is a piece of legislation that, depending on how it is crafted, depending on how that would be regulated, depending on how that would be prescribed, is something I could be supportive of. And I continue to feel the same way, but we'll see," Bevin said.
Reports indicate that Ward has already drafted a measure, complete with a number of co-sponsors, in which he plans to put in front of the General Assembly in the near future. In the meantime, he hopes to get a chance to sit down with Governor Bevin to see whether he can drum up some support from the top.
"Knowing that the governor will sign the bill is not speaking against it is a big thing,” said Ward.