Kentucky Senate approves medical marijuana in historic vote

Published 2:37 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

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Although the House has approved legislation in the past, for the first time ever, the Kentucky Senate passed legislation Wednesday evening that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, has more than a dozen co-sponsors, and cleared the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee earlier this week.

“I never intended to take a look at the issue of medical marijuana,” he testified to his colleagues on the floor, “but once I got into it and started reviewing it, the more I researched it, the more I was on board with the issue.”

West said his 122-page bill is complex but highlighted some of its provisions during his remarks.  They include:

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–Qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana are any type of cancer; chronic, severe, debilitating pain; epilepsy or any other seizure disorder; multiple sclerosis; muscle spasms; chronic nausea or vomiting; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; or any other condition that the Kentucky Center for Cannabis finds appropriate.

–Potential users must apply for a card and be approved.

–The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, or CHFS, would oversee the program and come up with regulations for implementation.

–Those under 18 who are approved for use would have to have their product purchased by a caregiver.

West noted that implementation of the bill would not take place until 2025, to give CHFS time to develop regulations and for lawmakers to make any needed changes during the 2024 legislation session.

“It’s time for Kentucky to join the 37 other states that allow medical marijuana as an option for their citizens,” West stated.  “Which is safer than medical marijuana?  Is oxycontin and Oxycodone safer?  Will this option help some suffering Kentuckians?  Will this option reduce addiction to opioids? Can this provide additional jobs for Kentuckians?  Can this help with end-of-life care and give people an option so if they want medical marijuana they’re not considered a criminal?  I’m convinced Senate3 Bill 47 can do that.”

One of those speaking in opposition was Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, a physician.  “Marijuana has not undergone any long or even short time research protocols, that include collection, collation of the material, assessment, review, or even any reporting of the data.  The FDA has not formally approved marijuana for any medical use.”

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, voted yes but said it wasn’t an easy decision.  “I have been rightly referred to as one of the strongest opponents of medical marijuana in the Senate.  But there have been a lot of people over the years who may not realize it, but they have had an effect on me and have persuaded me to change my mind.”

The bill passed 26-11 and heads to the House, where its approval is expected if it can get enough readings before the end of the legislative session.  Gov. Andy Beshear has said he would sign it, if it reaches his desk.