Medical Cannabis Bill Passes in Kentucky Senate Committee

On March 14, Senate Bill 47 was reviewed in the Senate Licensing & Occupations Committee voted 8-3, which will now move forward to the Senate floor.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Stephen West, spoke at the meeting. “I didn’t intend to ever get into medical marijuana or take a look at the issue,” West explained. He added that two advocates from Mason County, Eric and Michelle Crawford, inspired him to look closer into medical cannabis and its potential benefits.

West reviewed the bill in its current version, which would allow medical cannabis for patients with “any type of cancer regardless of stage, chronic, severe, intractable, or debilitating pain, epilepsy or any other intractable seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms or spasticity, chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting, post-traumatic stress disorder, and then we added one recently, any other medical condition or disease for which the Kentucky Center for Cannabis finds appropriate.”

Although smoking cannabis would be prohibited, raw cannabis would be permitted for vaping purposes. Cultivating cannabis for personal use would not be permitted either. The program would be managed by The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and regulations would be finalized by Jan. 1, 2025.

“I know it’s been a long road to this committee and I want to commend you for your vigilance and on this bill,” committee chair John Schnickel said in reply. “I have been working with you and people who have carried this bill before you for years. And you are an example to us all of in class and the way to handle yourself on a controversial issue which people feel passionately about in both directions.”

The committee also heard from longtime advocate Eric Crawford, who became a quadriplegic in the 1990s when he was involved in an automotive accident that broke his neck in three places. Crawford attested to the power and necessity of cannabis to improve his quality of life. “Here I am at the Kentucky state capitol, wearing a tie, trying to get medical cannabis legal for sick people. Medical cannabis relaxes my continuous, uncontrollable, violent muscle spasms. Medical cannabis relieves my constant, never-ending pain. Cannabis helps me. I’ve been crippled for almost 30 years, I know what is best for me. I don’t want to be high, I just want to feel better,” Crawford told the committee.

In March 2022, the Kentucky House passed House Bill 136, which would have legalized medical cannabis. However, it stalled in the Senate, and so advocates decided to start in the Senate for this session. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer has been opposed to medical cannabis for some time, and remains an obstacle for the movement. In January, he expressed that medical cannabis is a gateway to recreational legalization. “I’ve been hearing about it for years. I know my constituents are for it, but this is a republic, and they elect us to go to Frankfort and make decisions on their behalf,” Thayer said. “If they don’t like it, they can take it out on me in the next election.” Recently, NORML called out Thayer, asking him to support the will of the people and “do the job you were elected to do.

Back in November 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order that allowed patient access to medical cannabis and delta-8. His order went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, but only through legislation can full medical cannabis legalization become reality. “The executive order isn’t going to make it convenient for anyone on the medical marijuana front. What it will ensure is that they’re not a criminal,” Beshear said in January. “And that’s the limitations that I have in executive power and the limitations that other states have set if we don’t have our own full program. And it’s why it’s so important that the legislature go ahead and pass medical marijuana.”

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