KY: Medical Marijuana Bill Gets More Testimony, But No Vote Tuesday

Photo Credit: Jack Brammer

Four law enforcement officials and a doctor urged state lawmakers Tuesday to say no to a bill that would legalize medical marijuana.

For more than an hour, opponents of House Bill 166 told members of the House Judiciary Committee the ills they see in it.

Their predictions about passage of the measure included an increase in crime, creation of trafficking problems along the state’s borders, an enhancement of economic and social costs, temptations of children to use marijuana and uncertain physical outcomes over long-term usage.

Eric Crawford, a quadriplegic from Maysville who supports medical marijuana to ease his debilitating pain from glaucoma and a 1994 accident, said the hearing reminded him of the 1936 cult film “Reefer Madness.”

The film revolved around melodramatic events experienced by high school students when they tried marijuana — from hallucinations to suicide.

Crawford and supporters testified Monday for the bill, which would create a legal framework for medical marijuana. They said it would help reduce pain for thousands of Kentuckians ad prevent them from getting addicted to opioids.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg, would require a doctor to recommend medical marijuana before a patient could get it. It would be dispensed through a state-regulated dispensary. A city or a county would have a local-option vote to allow the medical marijuana.

If the local government doesn’t act on it in two years, residents could petition for a vote, similar to a wet-dry vote.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia offer medical marijuana and Virginia and Tennessee are considering it this year.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, said the bill will be on the committee’s agenda Wednesday for a possible vote.

Speaking against the bill Tuesday were Keith Cain of Daviess County, president of the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association; Dr. Danesh Mazloomdoost, an interventional pain doctor from Lexington who represented the Kentucky Medical Association; Shawn Butler of Northern Kentucky, representing the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police; Tommy Loving of Bowling Green, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association; and Commonwealth’s Attorney Christopher T. Cohron of Bowling Green.

Cain warned the legislators to “tread lightly” with medical marijuana until there is more research.

Mazloomdoost said marijuana is not medicine and there is little information about its long-term effects. He did acknowledge that specific molecules in marijuana could be beneficial.

“Allow this to be done by scientists, not those in business,” he said.

Cohron called marijuana “a gateway drug in our criminal justice system” and “a fool’s gold.”

Several legislators voiced the need for more research.

Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, said he didn’t know if the fight over the issue was based on its demonization or whether it could help someone with pain.

He said legislators should not confuse medical and recreational marijuana.