House committee strongly endorses medical marijuana, but time and the Senate stand in the way, in a session about to end

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville (LRC Public Information photo)

With a resounding 16-1 vote, a House committee approved a bill Wednesday to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky, but it seems unlikely to become law, given opposition in the Senate and the fact that only five days remain in the legislative session.

House Bill 136, green-lighted by the Judiciary Committee, “would legalize the sale of medical marijuana in Kentucky through state-licensed dispensaries,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

“We’re going to try to push it onto the House floor, we’re going to try to push it all the way through both chambers,” said Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, the bill’s main advocate in the House. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Maybe it’s not probable, but it’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings.”
Nemes added, “If we can’t get it all the way, then we’re going into the interim with this momentum behind us, and we’ll be back again next year.”Passage of controversial bills usually takes several years, often going incrementally farther each session. This is the first time a medical-marijuana bill has made it out of committee.
John Cheves reports for the Herald-Leader, “Just getting a committee vote took two months of intense lobbying and a few compromises, given the concerns some lawmakers have about marijuana as a ‘gateway drug,’ the sponsors said. Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is among those who has expressed skepticism that marijuana has any proven medical value. One such compromise: The sponsors dropped language from the original bill that would have allowed card-carrying medical marijuana patients to grow their own.”
Another sponsor of the bill, Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Fort Wright, said “homegrown” cannabis was important to give access to “poor Kentuckians or those living in rural areas, far from dispensaries,” Cheves reports. “But some lawmakers were uncomfortable with authorizing people to grow marijuana in their homes.” So the revised bill would put much of the revenue from a 12 percent medical-cannabis tax “into a fund that will be used to subsidize purchasing costs for indigent patients, St. Onge said.”
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