FRANKFORT, Ky. — After much anticipation, the Kentucky legislature has decided to indefinitely postpone voting on a medical marijuana bill, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
The House Judiciary Committee was expected to have a vote on House Bill 166 Tuesday, according to Rep. Joe Fischer (R-Ft. Thomas), the Committee chairman. However, the legislators did not hold the vote and instead voted on Wednesday 14 to 4 to pass over the bill, prompting many supporters of the bill to start crying.
House Bill 166 had the bipartisan support of 20 House members. The House Judiciary Committee had 3 hearings earlier in the week before passing over the bill. Supporters of the bill spoke to the Committee on Monday, telling them that the bill could help to fight overdoses from prescription drugs in the state. State Rep. Tom Burch (D-Louisville) was disappointed and said that he thought the ruling indicates that the state would be the last state to legalize the drug. Rep. John Sims (D-Flemingsburg) is the bill's sponsor and also has serious doubts that the lawmakers will reconsider the bill at any point this year.
House Bill 166 would have made medical marijuana legal for patients with eligible conditions, requiring a prescription from a physician. The State of Kentucky would be responsible for regulating and dispensing the medicine.
Secretary of State Says Don't Kill the Bill
Rep. Al Gentry (D-Jefferson) told the committee on Monday that they should do the right thing and help patients who need medicine. He added that medical marijuana is safer than prescription drugs and that the state should stop making patients suffer unnecessarily.
Sims told the Committee that states with legal marijuana had a sharp decrease in prescriptions for opioids, adding that legalizing medical marijuana could be an alternate pain treatment to prescription opioids, thereby decreasing opioid addictions and overdoses.
Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) said that the bill could still be reconsidered this year if changes are made to it, such as the number of plants a patient can cultivate. Nemes said that he thought that 12 plants was excessive.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes led the medical marijuana legislation taskforce formed in 2017 and is hopeful that Nemes is true to his word. The Kentucky Secretary of State also said that she hopes there will a compromise and that the pass over isn't a strategy to kill the bill.
Grimes wrote an op-ed to the Lexington Herald Leader published prior to the vote asking people to call their legislators and request that they vote to pass the bill. She laid out the reasons why she believed medical marijuana should be legalized.
She cited scientific evidence that marijuana helps people with Alzheimer's disease, cancer, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and several other illnesses. She also mentioned the surrounding states of Illinois, Ohio, and West Virginia that have already legalized medical marijuana, and said that several other states are considering medical marijuana bills.
She went on to say that the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine reported that overdoses from opioids decreased 25 percent in legal medical marijuana states, adding that physicians in these states also write nearly 2,000 fewer prescriptions annually for dangerous painkillers.
The Secretary of State noted that the state can also benefit economically from medical marijuana tax revenue that could potentially generate millions of dollars, adding that the industry would create thousands of new jobs.
Grimes added that the people of Kentucky are in support of legalizing medical marijuana and will tire of the government's red tape, reminding them that the people can legalize marijuana themselves when they vote in the November election.