FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – After its recent passage by the Kentucky House of Representatives, House Bill 136, which would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state, continues on the rough road to appearing before the state Senate.
The bill, which passed the House with a 65-30 vote must now be approved by Senate leaders to go up for a vote.
Medical Marijuana advocate Eric Crawford spoke to the House in one of the most “emotional, moving and convincing things I’ve ever witnessed,” according to State Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville), a sponsor of the bill.
Crawford became a quadriplegic almost 26 years ago in a vehicle crash. Throughout the years, doctors have prescribed him almost every medication to help ease his spasms and pain. However, he said nothing worked until he tried cannabis.
“I just don’t think I should be a criminal for using cannabis because it helps me,” he said.
Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation said his organization believes the medication found within the cannabis plant can be helpful to many people. However, he said they simply want medical marijuana to go through the Federal Drug Administration like other medications. They want cannabis to be “processed appropriately,” to filter out all unsafe components.
“We do believe that the FDA needs to research this because then it’s quantified and doctors can be told what size of dose and don’t do it if this is going on, or that’s going on,” he said.
Describing HB 136 as the most restricted-sighted bill in the country, Nemes said lawmakers have already included the needed medical requirements in the bill.
In order for a Kentuckian to obtain cannabis under HB 136, they would first need to meet with a physician and then with the Kentucky Department of Health, “to make sure everything is on the up and up,” he said. After this, residents would be required to consult with a pharmacist to ensure cannabis would not negatively interact with any of their other prescribed medications. Only after the resident meets with and gains approval from these three medical sources would they be able to visit a medical marijuana dispensary.
Nemes said the sponsors also included a restriction on smoking cannabis into the bill and added language that will allow law enforcement to allow them to enforce current drug laws more easily.
“It will be the most responsible, well-regulated program in the country when it passes and that’s something we can be proud of,” he said.
Ostrander said more research needs to be completed before Kentuckians have access to medical marijuana. For example, he said, evidence exists to show cannabis harms the development of young brains. FDA research could show how the drug impacts older brains as well.
Research exists to show marijuana is associated with psychoses associated with those diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia, he said. More research could help discover why.
The Family Foundation doesn’t want to keep medical marijuana away from those who need it, Ostrander said, they want it to go through “the hoops” all other medications must go through.
“We’d like it to see it go through those hoops quickly,” he said. “We want the medicine out of the plant and to the people who need it. We just don’t want to see them harmed.”
They want to see the medication legalized, they just don’t want anyone harmed by any unsafe components. To legalize it now, Ostrander said, means someone will get hurt.
Nemes said he doesn’t want to get “bogged down” in the thought studies have not been performed.
“We have a lot of studies,” he said. “We have conclusive proof that medical marijuana is very helpful (for) a number of conditions including Multiple sclerosis, Wasting Syndrome for cancer treatments and seizures and more. While we want more studies–I do as well, no doubt about it–I think it’s time to move forward with what we do know and allow the physicians to treat their patients the way they think is appropriate.”
While HB 136 will be a “tough sell,” for the Senate, Nemes said they’re finding senators from all over the state have been supportive of the bill.
When asked if they would want their family members to be able to get the medication they need, Nemes said he thinks most people would get them the needed medication.
“The hard issue right now is whether or not the senate will call it for a vote,” he said. “If they do call it for a vote, it’ll pass.”
Crawford said he will still stay involved in the process. He will meet with state senators to help express what he described as a need for many Kentuckians. He said he encourages any Kentucky resident to call their senator and encourage them to help pass the bill.
He’s not the only person who has a story, he said, and he plans to use his platform to help tell those stories.
“I was in that accident for a reason, I’m in a wheelchair for a reason and it’s not because God is punishing me,” he said. “I’m a blessed human being. It’s so I can help other people who are afraid to reach out or too sick to speak out.”