90% of Kentucky citizens support the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Although an overwhelming majority of the state supports medical use, legislators have tried unsuccessfully for over a decade to pass medical cannabis legislation.
However, on Thursday, February 20, Kentucky finally took a step in the right direction. In an overwhelming 65-30 partisan vote, the Kentucky House passed a medical marijuana bill. This marked significant progress in a state plagued by delays, back and forth arguments, and divisive opinions on how to execute medical marijuana.
The legislators approved House Bill 136 after 2 hours of debate and 8 rounds of approved amendments. HB 136 includes provisions such as:
Setting up a regulatory framework for obtaining a medical marijuana card, including the provision for requiring a doctor’s prescription.
Approving cannabis as a treatment for a list of approved conditions. The final list will include chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and nausea.
Alter the Department of Alcoholic Beverages to be the Department of Alcoholic Beverages And Cannabis Control.
Banning smoked marijuana, only allowing consumption through ingestion. However, it will not ban sales of cannabis flower, which many people will likely still smoke.
Banning public consumption.
Allowing counties to opt out of medical marijuana.
Creating 25 dispensaries throughout Kentucky for medical cannabis.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Representative Jason Nemes, this is one of the strictest medical cannabis bills in the country. The House faced many debates over the merits and potential harms of cannabis misuse, which led to the ban on smokable marijuana. Others raised concerns about federal cannabis prohibition, which could, in theory, put Kentucky in legal hot water (although this is very unlikely).
In spite of these concerns, the House passed HB 136. It will now go to vote in the Senate, although many State Senators have expressed a desire for more research before passing a medical cannabis program. Although we can’t say for sure if the Senate will pass HB 136, this is the most progress a medical cannabis measure has achieved in the state.
Hopefully, the Senate will see the benefits of medical cannabis for alleviating many intractable medical conditions. If this passes, Kentucky will be the 34th state to legalize medical cannabis.
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