Some Republicans and Democrats in the legislature are calling for Kentucky to legalize medical marijuana this year and permit people to use the drug to treat a variety of health problems.
House Bill 166, which is sponsored by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, would let qualifying patients diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition use the drug for health reasons.
To legally use medical marijuana, people would need a recommendation from a health practitioner who meets certain requirements and would have to obtain an identification card from the state. They also would have to adhere to some restrictions, including limits on how much cannabis they can have at one time.
Jaime Montalvo, of the nonprofit organization Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana, provided Courier Journal with a list of conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana under a substitute version of HB 166. State Rep. John Sims Jr., a Flemingsburg Democrat sponsoring the bill, said the substitute has been drafted but hasn’t officially been introduced yet.
Here are many of the conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana in Kentucky if this legislation wins the approval of enough state lawmakers:
•AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome)
•ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
•Chronic or debilitating disease
•Irritable bowel syndrome
•PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)
•Severe, debilitating pain
•Traumatic brain injury
The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony this week on HB 166 but has not yet decided whether to send the bill to the full chamber for a vote. That decision could happen Wednesday.
Under HB 166, the production, sale and use of medical marijuana would be regulated. Publicly smoking the substance would be prohibited, and any person or business that wants to cultivate, distribute or sell it would need state-approved licenses.
Local governments would have a say in whether cannabis-centric dispensaries and businesses could operate within their jurisdictions, and participating governments would receive some of the revenue from an excise tax that would be levied on the production and distribution of the drug.
Proponents say HB 166 would give people struggling with pain a new, legal alternative to opioid prescriptions amid a growing addiction crisis laying waste to too many lives across the commonwealth.
Opponents of the bill who testified Tuesday said medical marijuana would end up in the hands of citizens who don’t need it for health reasons and would be detrimental to public safety. They also cautioned that more research is needed on the drug’s long-term effects and questioned whether legalization actually would reduce opioid use in Kentucky.