Kentucky lawmakers are once again working to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Although this action has been met with little to no enthusiasm over the past few years, there is hope now that opposing forces may be more apt to side with this reform as a way to combat the apocalyptic residue of the state’s opioid epidemic.
Earlier this week, State Representatives John Sims and Alan Gentry introduced a piece of legislation (House Bill 166) aimed at giving patients the freedom to use marijuana for a variety of medical conditions. Lawmakers are hoping to convince the majority of the Kentucky House that giving the people access to cannabis will make them less susceptible to the grips of opioids. To help sell their position, they intend to share some of the latest research from the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine that suggests opioid use is down 25 percent in states with similar laws.
Kentucky has experienced its fair share of opioid-related tragedy…and it’s only getting worse. The latest data indicates that the Bluegrass state had more than 1,400 drug overdose deaths in 2016. This represents an almost a 40 percent increase in less than five years.
Secretary of State Is Leading the Calvary
A large part of the fight to bring Kentucky out of the pits of total prohibition is being led by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. She and other advocates were in Frankfort this week to promote the latest offering in the realm of medical marijuana legislation. The objective is to educate the General Assembly in such a way that they begin to lose the age-old stigmas associated with the cannabis plant. She recently told the Ledger Independent that 2018 is the year that Kentucky finally gets it done.
“What started as a whisper years ago is now a loud chorus. Kentuckians have declared 2018 as the year they expect action on medical marijuana from their legislators,” Grimes told the news source. “Now, with 29 states and the District of Columbia offering relief in the form of medical marijuana to their citizens, we must waste no more time. We’ve heard real, heart-wrenching stories from all over the Commonwealth about how access to cannabis can provide long-lasting and life-changing relief. The serious discussions this task force had have resulted in a solid piece of legislation that can change lives.”
Uphill Battle in the General Assembly
While anti-pot attitudes might be changing to some degree within the General Assembly, there is still enough resistance in all the right (wrong?) places to sabotage this effort before it ever gets started.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer recently told the Associated Press that medical marijuana will not have enough votes this year to pass the Senate. Thayer, who believes marijuana is a gateway drug, told reporters that he is “a ‘no’ on medical marijuana at this time, pending further scientific information that could change my mind.”
Final Hit: Kentucky Will Discuss Medical Marijuana in 2018
If Kentucky’s General Assembly can somehow come to an agreement on the medical marijuana proposal, there is a good chance it would be approved by Governor Matt Bevin.
Although the governor is dead set against putting his signature on any bill that legalizes marijuana in a manner similar to what is happening in Colorado, Bevin told WHAS Newsradio 840 last year that he is “not against the idea of medical marijuana if prescribed like other drugs, if administered in the same way that we would other pharmaceutical drugs.
“I think it would be appropriate in many respects,” he added. “It has absolute medicinal value. But again, that’s a function of (a bill) making its way to me. I don’t get to do that executively, it would have to be a bill.”