Medical cannabis bill passes Senate, awaits House vote March 30

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A bill that would make medical marijuana legal for some in Kentucky has passed the state Senate for the first time and awaits a vote in the House, which has passed two similar bills in previous legislative sessions.

Sen. Stephen West

“It is time for Kentucky to join the other 37 states in the United States that allow medical marijuana as an option for their citizens,” said Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, in presenting his bill to the Senate, adding later, “It is understood that this is a very complex issue and if passed, will be a work in progress.”


Senate Bill 47 passed late Thursday night on a 26-11 vote. The House gave the bill its first of three required readings the same night, which will allow enough time for it to pass out of the House when the lawmakers return March 29 and 30.

Last year, after a House-passed bill again got no hearing in the Senate, Gov. Andy Beshear used his pardon power to allow people with 21 specified medical conditions and a doctor’s certificate to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana bought legally in another state. (Illinois is the only adjoining state where nonresidents can legally buy cannabis.) Beshear signaled Thursday that he would sign the bill.

West, who said he has worked on such legislation for about five or six years, told the Senate, “This is one of those issues where you take out the ledger and you list the pros and cons. It’s a long list on both sides, but for me personally, the pros outweigh the cons.”

The 124-page bill would not allow medical marijuana to be smoked, require users to be 18 or older or be a caretaker for a child, limit supply, and not take effect until Jan. 1, 2025.

The medical marijuana would be allowed for certain “qualifying medical conditions,” including all cancers regardless of the stage; chronic, severe, intractable or debilitating pain; epilepsy or any other tractable seizure disorder; multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms or spasticity; chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting syndrome that has proven resistant to other conventional medical treatments; post-traumatic stress disorder; and any other medical condition or disease for which the new Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Kentucky determines would benefit from medicinal marijuana.

West and other lawmakers praised the advocacy of Eric and Michelle Crawford, a quadriplegic who has long searched for another option to manage his pain. They also praised the ongoing work of advocate Jamie Montalvo, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, toward getting this bill passed.

 Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said the Crawfords and Montalvo don’t want to break the law: “These are people that are willing to work hard and make sacrifices to comply with the law. What they are looking for is a pathway forward to make sure that people can get a safe product.”
Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said it was important to show those who are suffering from  debilitating diseases  “just a little bit of mercy” and that was why he voted yes.
“Will this be abused by some folks?  It certainly will,” he said. “But again, if we can benefit just one person, one child, I think it’s worthwhile.”

Only Republicans voted against the bill: Gary Boswell of Owensboro, Danny Carroll of Benton, Donald Douglas of Nicholasville, Rick Girdler of Somerset, President Pro Tem David Givens of Greensburg, Chris McDaniel of Ryland Heights, Robby Mills of Henderson, John Schickel of Union, President Robert Stivers of Manchester, Mike Wilson of Bowling Green, and Max Wise of Campbellsville.

Marijuana is a “scourge of the earth,” Boswell said. “I urge my colleagues to vote no. If you are going to violate federal law, at least tighten up the bill to include only the critically ill.”
Douglas, a physician, said, “With the different growing techniques and the increased concentration of these chemical compounds, I’m not really convinced that this drug is safe. But we do have some research going on out there, and I really want to thank the University of Kentucky. I hope we have some other institutions doing research who will give us good information.”
Previous Article
Next Article