Wednesday, Kentucky lawmakers once again considered legislation that would make marijuana legal for medicinal use.
The legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Health & Welfare heard pleas from a nurse practitioner and people with disabilities who say that the drug, which is currently available for medicinal use in 22 states, would alleviate symptoms of pain.
A medical marijuana bill passed by the House Health & Welfare Committee earlier this year ultimately died on the chamber floor. It’s passage planted a larger seed in the General Assembly that committee chair Tom Burch said will eventually come to fruition.
“I think eventually it will happen, because every survey I’ve run shows big percentages of people that want it legalized," Burch said. "I’m sure some of the legislators here on this panel, if they surveyed their district, probably comes back close to mine.”
Burch remembers when marijuana was made illegal.
“I was here when we criminalized the use of marijuana back in the 70s," Burch said. "It was a rush to get these criminals off the street, and all this kind of stuff that was going on. It was ill advised, but it was a good election year and everybody wanted to be against crime, so that's why we passed it, so that a little bag of marijuana would get you five years."
But GOP support will be crucial to the passage of the bill. Republicans in the Senate are concerned about people using the drug for recreational purposes. Senator Julie Denton, a Republican on the joint committee, said members of her party who supported a successful bipartisan effort to legalize medicinal cannabis oil still remain opposed to marijuana.
“So that tells me that people are for helping with substances that are a little, in their mind, tainted, if we can create them and make them available in such a way that they are helpful, but they’re not going to be harmful to society.”
The committee will take up the issue again this fall with hopes of reviewing scientific studies on the drug.
A February Bluegrass poll showed that 52 percent of Kentuckians support legalized medical marijuana. The legislature will take up the issue again next month when it will examine the effects of marijuana on post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.