A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Proponents of medical marijuana legislation believe there is opportunity to get bill passed

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Persistent pro-marijuana lawmakers are again pushing long-shot legislation to legalize the drug for medical purposes, an issue that has been proposed and defeated repeatedly over the years in Kentucky.

Two Republican state representatives, Diane St. Onge of Fort Wright and Jason Nemes of Louisville, introduced what they’ve dubbed the “Trust Your Doctor Bill” on Wednesday, meaning the legislation wouldn’t impose a list of medical conditions for which marijuana might be prescribed.

Reps. Diane St. Onge and Jason Nemes discuss a medical marijuana bill that was filed on Wednesday. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

St. Onge said the legislation would create a strong regulatory framework that would closely track prescriptions, create a licensing system for businesses that would dispense marijuana, and provide information to law enforcement about the identity of patients who receive prescriptions.

“Somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 Kentuckians daily face excruciating pain, their quality of life is considerably diminished, and they have not been able to have that remedied by traditional medicine,” St. Onge said.

Opponents argue that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, not politicians, should have final say on determining the medical benefits of marijuana.

Nemes said Kentucky lawmakers who have been reluctant in the past are now open to medical marijuana.

“I was not for medical marijuana when I first ran for office,” he told reporters. “Then, I met with some constituents in my district, was educated on the matter, and have changed my position. So, now I am full-throttle in support of medical marijuana.”

Nemes said he believes the measure has enough support in the House to pass, though House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said lawmakers haven’t been polled on the matter.

“I could support it if it was very tightly written and has lots of precautions, but that’s me personally,” Osborne said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has said he opposes legalization without studies confirming the benefits.

Sen. Dan Seum, a Louisville Republican who has been a longtime proponent of medical marijuana, said this could be a year for an affirmative Senate vote.

“There is movement in the Senate at this point in time,” Seum said. “There are some people who are not talking, but I’m convinced it’s coming. When you have 80-some percent of the state that wants this bill, I think it’s time.”

Nemes contends marijuana can help a number of conditions, including pain and nausea from cancer treatments.

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