Legislation to legalize medical cannabis cleared the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
House Bill 136 was overwhelmingly approved in a vote of 16 to one after committee members heard from constituents who suffer from health problems such as epilepsy and chronic pain. Like so many others, these conditions produce symptoms that have been responsive to medical cannabis treatments in other states where the plant is available to patients with a physician’s recommendation, like Illinois and Ohio.
During an impactful presentation to the judiciary committee, Cassie Everett, a Kentuckian who lives in Louisville, displayed a bag containing all of the prescription drugs she is required to take each day for the treatment of epilepsy.
“To just think that I have an option of living a life without all the side effects of the medication and waking up groggy every day, I mean that’s unbelievable,” said Everett as she addressed the committee.
Everett’s neurologist has recommended that she use cannabis to reduce the frequency and severity of the seizures caused by her condition, but she refuses to try it while it remains illegal in the Bluegrass State.
“I honestly just want a better option. I would like to have the option without breaking the law,” Everett said. “I personally have never tried medical marijuana, but I would like to have the choice.”
Eric Crawford, a resident of Mason County, is another medical cannabis proponent who provided anecdotal evidence at the committee hearing. Living with a spinal cord injury sustained during a car crash, Crawford admits to using cannabis instead of prescription painkillers to treat his chronic pain and muscle spasms.
“I am viewed as a criminal in the state I love,” Crawford said during his testimony. According to Crawford, cannabis is more than just a medication, it is a “self-preservation tool for the longevity of my life.”
Under current state law, it is illegal to possess any amount of cannabis, even if it is just an amount for personal use. Any person caught in possession of cannabis in Kentucky may be charged with a class B misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 45 days in jail, a $250 fine, or both. Cultivating five or more plants at home is considered to be a class D felony, punishable by five to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
The Legislation: HB 136
HB 136 was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 43 state representatives, including Jason Nemes (R-Louisville), Diane St. Onge (R-Fort Wright), and Charles Booker (D-Louisville).
The proposal aims to give licensed physicians the right to recommend medical cannabis to patients suffering from debilitating conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, and Crohn’s disease.
“This is for the people who have not been able to be treated by traditional medicine,” said St. Onge. “This bill is solely a medical marijuana bill. It is not recreational in nature at all.”
If HB 136 becomes law, the cannabis sold at medical dispensaries would be required to have been grown and processed within the state of Kentucky. Program regulation and licensing would be the responsibility of the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control. Farmers could apply for a license to cultivate the crop, and processors, retailers, and labs testing facilities could also apply for separate business licenses.
Bill sponsors do not intend for the state to profit from the suffering of constituents through the sale of medical cannabis, therefore no sales tax is to be charged on dispensary purchases. There will be a small excise tax associated with each transaction to cover the cost of program regulation and the indigent patient fund.
Getting HB 136 a committee hearing was a struggle, according to sponsors, and the legislation had to be altered from its original form in order to be considered. Home cultivation and smoking, arguably the most effective method of cannabinoid delivery, were removed from the proposal in the final version.
Medical cannabis would be available in ingestible forms like edibles, capsules, tinctures, and oils, under HB 136. Smoking dried cannabis flower would not be an approved method of administration for medical cannabis patients in Kentucky under the revised version of this proposal. Medical cannabis law in Florida was initially structured similarly, but the smoking ban is in the process of being repealed at this time.
“We’re going to try to push it onto the House floor, we’re going to try to push it all the way through both chambers,” Nemes said. “If we can’t get it all the way, then we’re going into the interim with this momentum behind us, and we’ll be back again next year.”
With so few days remaining in this legislative session, HB 136 is not expected to advance further, but the bill sponsors are not giving up hope.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Maybe it’s not probable, but it’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings,” said Nemes.
If HB 136 were to miraculously make it to the desk of Republican Governor Matthew Bevin, he has expressed that he would sign the bill into law.
This is not the first time legislators have proposed to legalize cannabis for medical use in Kentucky. Similar legislation, with only about half the amount of sponsors, failed last year.
The top Republican in the U.S. House has issued a surprise endorsement of a key marijuana ingredient’s medical benefits as well as the uses of industrial hemp.
“It has proven to work,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said of cannabidiol (CBD) on Tuesday, specifying that it “helps reduce seizures.”
“We do this in Wisconsin,” he said, referring to his home state’s limited CBD law. “That that oil, I think works well.”
The speaker, who is not running for reelection and is retiring from Congress early next year, shared that his own mother-in-law used a synthetic form of cannabinoids, presumably the THC pill Marinol, while dying from melanoma and ovarian cancer.
“That’s off the record,” he said jokingly, referencing TV cameras at the well-attended Kentucky rally where he was appearing in support of Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), who is locked in a tight reelection race.
Ryan, responding to a medical marijuana question from a woman whose husband passed away, also proactively took the opportunity to speak up in support of industrial hemp.
“And by the way, there’s a lot of industrial uses for hemp that I understand from talking to Mitch McConnell is a big deal to Kentucky agriculture,” he said. “And we’re all in favor of that as well.”
Ryan’s endorsement for hemp comes at a key time. Congressional leaders are currently negotiating differences in the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill. The Senate proposal contains language championed by McConnell, the GOP majority leader, that would legalize hemp. The House bill has no such provisions.
If the top Republican in either chamber is now vocally in support of ending the prohibition on marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, it seems more and more likely that the House will accept the Senate’s hemp language.
That said, don’t count the outgoing speaker as a die-hard marijuana supporter, even when it comes to medical uses.
“Theres no THC in that oil,” he said, even though most CBD preparations do have small amounts of the intoxicating cannabis compound. “That is not medical marijuana.”
In response to the medical marijuana question, Ryan also touted passage this year of the Right to Try Act—which appears to allow certain seriously ill people to use marijuana and other currently illegal drugs such as psilocybin and MDMA, though he did not mention those implications directly.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Paul Ryan Touts The Benefits Of A Marijuana Ingredient And Industrial Hemp
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore
Local officials in Kentucky made the decision to destroy part of a legally grown hemp crop, totaling 100 pounds, because it exceeded the set limit for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis plants.
Federal law allows for hemp to be cultivated, so long as it does not exceed a 0.3 percent concentration of THC by weight. Agriculture officials in Kentucky are adamant that they had “no choice,” but to uphold federal law. Brent Burchett, director of plant marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture stated,
“We’ve got a program that’s under a lot of scrutiny at the federal level. We have to be good stewards with law enforcement.”
The effort to create a thriving hemp industry in Kentucky has been successful, with many growers switching to hemp due to a waning tobacco market.
But the legal limit for hemp is a point of contention among growers, scientists, law enforcement, and even politicians. The figure seems to originate from a report dating back to 1976, written by two Canadian research scientists and commissioned by Canada’s Health Ministry (now known as Health Canada). Their report was meant to create a general taxonomy for hemp, and was never meant to be a government standard.
“It’s not psychoactive,” said Lyndsey Todd, who grew some of the potent hemp.
“You could smoke all 100 pounds and you would end up probably with a headache and nothing else.”
To put the number into perspective, cannabis in Colorado averages about 18.7 percent THC, and peaks at about 30 percent. California’s cannabis tends to not drop below a 20 percent THC concentration, and some premium strains can test up to 35 percent THC. While hemp close relative to cannabis biologically, it has much higher amounts of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is what many medical marijuana patients are looking for to treat seizure disorders and inflammatory conditions. CBD also dampens the effect of THC, neutralizing the small amount of THC found in hemp.
Fortunately, the amount of potent hemp that Kentucky destroys is less than 1 percent of the crop yield. But the 100 lbs of strong hemp could have been diluted down to the .3 percent limit and sold as medicine.
“Destroying the crop should not be the first or only option,”
said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. Since the potency and quality of hemp can fluctuate significantly based on weather, irrigation, pests, and other environmental variables, Steenstra suggested that the rules surrounding the legal limit need to be relaxed so growers aren’t discouraged by a heavily regulated crop.
All different types of people consume cannabis, and that means all walks of life also grow it. Often, when people work in creative fields, there’s a likely connection between career and cannabis.
Sadly for amateur botanists Tori Shaw and Tyler Smoyer, that collision came to head in Kentucky, a state with some of the strictest laws against growing cannabis.
The couple was busted via the state’s “Text-a-Tip” program when someone notified police of suspicious behavior. Cops visited the couple’s home for a brief conversation then promptly returned with a warrant to search the property. The warrant turned up a whopping seven marijuana plants along with six guns and a tactical vest.
While it’s never a good idea to combine cannabis with firearms, this honest-working couple wasn’t exactly a branch of ISIS. Nonetheless, they’ve been charged with a felony for growing more than five plants of cannabis and multiple misdemeanors for having the weaponry.
Each individual has a clean record but can still face up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. But both individuals lives are already altered: Tori Shaw, a notable local news personality on WPST TV, lost her job and both must now deal with the legal and fiscal aftermath that comes with such a case.
As expected with this type of case, the local community is not happy about the charges facing these two non-violent, law-abiding members of society. Their complaint stems from a common one: these aren’t seasoned criminals worth law enforcement’s time.
This is a normal married couple that was simply growing enough cannabis for private consumption (seven plants is not much). While having guns also in the mix wasn’t the best idea, the punishment in this case does not seem to fit the “crime”–because the crime simply shouldn’t be one.
Earlier this year, a Julliard-trained cellist was charged smuggling more than one-hundred pounds of cannabis in Oregon. While that was far more of a crime, both cases go to show that normal, talented individuals often turn to post for a financial rescue.
photo credit: Kentucky State Police
Former Kentucky congressman Mike Ward is the latest public official to step forward in support of medical cannabis.
Ward, a Democrat, announced that he will serve as the president and CEO of the nonprofit organization Legalize Kentucky Now, which seeks to make medical marijuana available to patients who have a physician’s recommendation to use it.
“It’s time,” Ward said in his announcement.
“This is absolutely something that is going to happen in this country and this state.”
Ward cited the case of his younger brother, who succumbed to AIDS 20 years ago and used marijuana to alleviate his suffering.
“He was in his last weeks of his life and the hospital staff looked the other way as he smoked marijuana in the bathroom because they knew it could help him with his appetite, could help him keep food down,”
he said. “My little brother should not have had to put someone else in legal jeopardy to obtain marijuana purposes.”
Kentucky’s state government has been hesitant to support medical marijuana, with opponents leery of its potential for abuse and its potential for recreational use. Ward, however, sees hope in the fact that the state’s newly-elected governor, Matt Bevin (R), said during his campaign that he would support a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state.
“Knowing that the governor will sign the bill and is not going to be speaking against it is a big step for us,” said Ward. “Clearly [Gov. Bevin] has other legislative priorities, but knowing that the governor will sign the bill is not speaking against it is a big thing.”
According to Ward, the tax benefits of legalizing marijuana could be quite useful throughout the state: Under his proposal, the increased revenue would be put towards the improvement of roads, schools, and other projects for the public good.