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Medical marijuana bill could be voted on as early as this week

Posted at 3:20 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 17:50:57-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Medical marijuana could get a vote on the Kentucky House floor as soon as this week.

Last Wednesday, HB 136 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 17-1 vote. However, the bill got some criticism - from both opponents and supporters.

Rep. Kimberly Moser voted against the bill because she wants more studies done on the effects of medical marijuana.

"I just want to make sure that they are getting the medication that they think they're getting, so I'm going to vote no today because I think we need more research," said Moser.

Supporters - 17 of them - voted yes. However, some took issue with the fact that the bill is "too tight."

One example of that is the anti-combustion aspect of it. The bill does not allow "consumption of marijuana by smoking," which is something even the primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jason Nemes, believes is restrictive.

"This is part of the bill I think is too tight," said Nemes. "From my perspective, if the physician thinks it's appropriate for the patient, they should be able to smoke. It's the quickest way to get it into the body."

So Rep. Nemes admits, this is not necessarily the bill he originally wanted, but it's the one they're dealing with and they're hoping the compromises will be enough to pass it.

Other lawmakers believe the bill is a step in the right direction.

"This bill is too tight for my taste as well, as Representative Nemes said. But what it comes down to for me is this: that no one should be a criminal in our state for doing what they must do - so they and their families can live without pain and live with dignity," said Rep. Patti Minter, a democrat representing Bowling Green.

House Speaker David Osborne praised the bill's supporters for making the changes needed to draw a lot of support.

“I think they’ve done a good job of building support for it,” said Osborne.

Medical marijuana is already legal in 33 states.

While smoking medical cannabis would not be allowed under the Kentucky bill, consumption could take place through pills and oils. State regulators would also decide whether to allow chocolate or cookies containing THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Under the bill, a regulatory board would determine what conditions would qualify for doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients. The board would consist of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill also would set up a regulatory process allowing at least 25 dispensaries statewide to fill doctors’ prescriptions for medical marijuana.

If the legislation clears the House, it would still need to pass the Senate, where the bill could run into some trouble.

"My prediction is when it goes on the house floor, the first number will start with a seven. It'll be in the 70s," said Rep. Nemes. "This is an issue that the House has already determined. This is a question now for the Senate, so for the folks at home who are interested in helping, contact your Senator and let them know that not only are you for it, you'd like them to be for it, and ask for a vote."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.