FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Medical marijuana advocates left Frankfort empty-handed and disappointed this year.
Despite growing public support for medical marijuana in Kentucky, the bill to legalize it stalled and died in the Senate.
"It's extremely frustrating," said Jaime Montalvo, the founder of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana.
"We do know that we had the support. We do know that we had the votes in both the House, obviously, and in the Senate," Montalvo added. "In my opinion, what I believe happened is that the legislative members of the Senate just didn't have the courage to actually vote on the bill publicly."
The high-profile Kentucky measure cleared the House on a 59-34 vote last month, but it made no headway in the Senate. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.
The bill would strictly regulate the use of cannabis for a list of eligible medical conditions.
Montalvo says this is a matter of taking medical marijuana off the streets to ensure a safe, clean product.
"A safe environment for patients to purchase it and a way for patients to know that what they're purchasing is clean," explained Montalvo.
He says patients currently have two options: leave the state or get the product from a drug dealer.
"They have to take their business to the street, to a street dealer who does not have any licensing," said Montalvo. "Passage of a medical marijuana law would make potentially thousands of businesses legal across the state. It would regulate who sells it, where those businesses are, what hours they can operate, who they can sell it to, how much they can sell."
Despite his frustration, Montalvo said advocates will be back next year.
"We'll continue fighting," said Montalvo. "We're not going to stop. Patients need access to cannabis."
Gov. Andy Beshear has also indicated he's ready to consider taking action himself to give some ailing Kentuckians access to medicinal cannabis.
Asked if he could potentially issue an executive order making medical marijuana accessible if the bill dies, the governor told reporters: “We’re going to explore that.”
“It’s something that we will look at,” he said. “Its time has certainly come.”