Medical-marijuana bill clears House committee; cannabis-oil bill, more likely to pass into law, goes to full Senate

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky passed the Kentucky Health House and Welfare Committee Thursday, but whether the issue will come up for a vote in front of the full House was unclear. Meanwhile, the Senate is moving a bill that would allow experimental use of cannabis oil, which is produces from marijuana but has no psychoactive effects.

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, the sponsor of House Bill 350, known as the Cannabis Compassion Act, said that the historic passage was “a miracle,” Rae Hodge reported for The Associated Press. “It was so rewarding to be able to offer the folks who are suffering from so many different medical conditions a little bit of hope,” Marzian said.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, opposed the bill. He was concerned about marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug and that “not enough is known about the drug to support Kentucky research on it.” The committee approved the bill by a vote of 9 to 5. It went to the Rules Committee, which can send it to the full House or to another committee.

Marzian said she plans to amend the bill to decrease the amount of marijuana available to patients from three ounces to a half an ounce, and to add more stringent guidelines specifying who can access it in order to get more support for the bill, Hodge reports.

Senate Bill 124, which is sponsored by Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Julie Denton, R-Louisville, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, chairman of that chamber’s Judiciary Committee, would allow trial use of cannabis oil to treat severe childhood seizures.

That bill cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday. If passed into law, it will allow the use of cannabis oil, which has none of the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in research at the hospitals at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.

Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, is sponsoring the Senate version of the medical-marijuana bill. He told Hodge that he doubts that either his bill or Marzian’s will pass the Republican-led Senate, but does think the cannabis-oil bill will pass.

Marzian told Hodge, “Any kind of crack we can make in this wall that has forbidden access to medical marijuana or oil — or anything we can do — is opening the door. I don’t know if it’ll move forward, but if it doesn’t, that gives us the whole interim [between legislative sessions] to fashion it in a bill that can be agreeable to folks that may have some concerns but also the people who are in desperate need of alternatives.”

Nearly 80 percent of Kentucky adults think people with serious illnesses should be allowed to access and use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctors recommend it, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll released in May 2013

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have adopted medical marijuana laws, Hodge reports, and at least 15 are considering such bills this year.

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