Perhaps all Kentucky needs to move forward with medical marijuana legislation is a 78-year-old Republican lawmaker to admit he threw his prescription pain meds in the trash—and smoked a joint instead. Cannabis advocates are hoping that’s the case after Wednesday’s announcement of Kentucky’s House Bill 136, which would make cannabis legal for those with debilitating illnesses and excruciating pain.
“For those that don’t know, I had colon cancer seven years ago, and when I left the hospital, they gave me that nice bottle of Oxycontin,” said Daniel DeVerl “Malano” Seum, the state senator, at a press conference. “I threw it in the garbage can and went home and smoked a joint.”
Such revelations are not the norm for Kentucky politics, but they may be what’s needed if the bill’s sponsors make headway on providing patients access to cannabis. The state’s law enforcement has expressed split opinions on the support of cannabis legislation.
“My opposition to this legislation isn’t because I lack compassion for the sick, but because I think it’s wrong to herald marijuana — with its many proven negative qualities,” Sheriff Cain of Daviess County testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding last year’s unsuccessful medical cannabis proposal HB-166.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Silvers went so far as to respond to Wednesday’s press conference by calling cannabis a “gateway drug.”
“He then said he is open to discussion but has not been given any ‘studies and facts’ saying marijuana has ‘medical and therapeutic value,’” reported Lexington NBC affiliate LEX18.
“There are 20,000 studies,” responded Seum to Silver’s seeming ignorance of the copious medical literature available on the benefits of cannabis that’s led to legalization in 33 states.
“I’m not going to go as far as to say there is adequate support in the House, but there is certainly significant discussion,” said House Speaker David Osborne, in support of the bill.
The states’ politicians behind the bill made it clear they are not (yet) total supporters of the rapidly-expanding cannabis industry. ”The intention of this legislation is not to generate tax revenue, but rather to provide relief to the thousands of Kentuckians who suffer from conditions that have not responded to traditional medicine,” said Representative Diane St. Onge, a Republican from Fort Wright.
The bill puts forth a proposal for a medical cannabis system run by the Department of Public Protection’s Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control. It includes a yearly licensing fee and will put a limit on the quantity of cannabis that can be in patients’ possession. The legislation will be deliberated before the Kentucky Congress ends its session in April.
Kentucky’s noted hard-line attitude towards cannabis will make this an interesting legislative battle to follow. When former Miss Kentucky Kia Hampton was discovered attempting to bring less than an eighth to her ex-boyfriend in jail, she narrowly escaped jail time and was sentenced to two years’ probation. The state is one of the 17 left in the US that have zero forms of legalized cannabis.