Is medical marijuana bill dead this legislative session?

Sen. Damon Thayer says there aren't enough votes in the Senate, the bill's sponsor is still hopeful

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky lawmakers are getting closer to the end of this year’s legislative session.  This year, there are still some high profile bills waiting to be heard, among them a bill to legalize medical marijuana. On Friday morning, Governor Andy Beshear taking to social media pushing passage of the medical marijuana bill, “It’s time for the General Assembly to legalize medicinal marijuana.”

In the United States, 37 states have legalized medicinal marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

According to Republican Representative Jason Nemes, of Louisville, Kentucky is lagging behind.

“Now, there are very conservative states that have adopted this, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, but I think in Kentucky we are slower to enact things that are on the controversial spectrum,” said Nemes.

Two years ago, the House passed a similar version to this year’s proposed legislation, but it died in the Senate.  Rep. Nemes hopes it doesn’t happen again this session for the sake of helping patients with cancer, epilepsy or PTSD who look to medical cannabis.

“For somebody getting product for their loved one or themselves, this makes sure it’s grown in Kentucky, it’s tested in Kentucky, it’s packaged in Kentucky, it’s regulated by Kentuckians, by Kentucky doctors Kentucky pharmacists and Kentucky law enforcement to make sure what’s in that product is safe,” explained Nemes.

The bill approved by the House would strictly regulate the use of cannabis for a list of eligible medical conditions.  According to Rep. Nemes, it’s not a “Get out of jail free card” if you’re found under the influence behind the wheel.

“If you’re intoxicated under any substance, whether that’s opioids or alcohol or marijuana, you’re not allowed to drive, that doesn’t change at all in the bill,” said Rep. Nemes.

Opponents worry Kentucky’s cannabis policy would become more lenient over the years if medical marijuana gets a legal foothold and could worsen drug addiction in the state.  Rep. Nemes was once opposed to legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, but his stance has changed over the years.

“If one of my son’s physicians said they got a debilitating condition and this would help them, I’d break the law, and I think most people would do that so, the law shouldn’t make that type of action illegal,” said Rep. Nemes.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, told the Lexington Herald Leader on Thursday that House Bill 136 doesn’t have enough votes in the Senate and is “done for the year”.

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