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.
In April 2014, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear approved an amendment to the state’s constitution which excluded the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), from the definition of marijuana. While this legislation legalized CBD oil, it neglected to include the most important aspect of legalization — language to establish a production and distribution program for patients to have access to the, now legal, cannabinoid concentrate. The omittance of such enabling language left the bill essentially unworkable.
Possessing the CBD oil is legal, only for patients suffering from epilepsy, but it is still illegal for patients to cultivate their own cannabis plants to produce the oil. It is still very illegal to carry cannabis products out of states in which it is legal, like Colorado. It is still very illegal and risky to leave a legal state with the product and then drive through several other states where all cannabis products are illegal, risking prosecution. What good is being able to possess such medicine if patients cannot acquire it? None.
Outside of scrapping the current CBD oil legislation all together and swapping it for a more workable law, there are a couple of options available to Kentucky legislators and the governor. If a bill was to be presented that adds the enabling language needed to establish a production and distribution program to the current legislation, the legislature could vote to approve such an amendment, and the program would have wings. Or, the governor could simply sign an executive order to allow the CBD oil to be produced and distributed within the state. The latter would provide the quickest solution, but the chances of that happening are slim.
There are two other options — two brand new bills filed for the 2015 session. Where the CBD oil legislation is very limited and restrictive, including only patients with epilepsy, these two bills open medical marijuana up to people suffering from several other medical conditions.
Senator Perry Clark (D-Louisville) plans to introduce a bill to establish a medical marijuana program in Kentucky again this year. This bill allows licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from multiple conditions, and it allows cannabis to be consumed in all forms. While his proposed legislation does not allow for the medical marijuana to be distributed through licensed dispensaries, it does at least allow for home cultivation and caregiver relationships. It is a very workable bill. Senator Clark told NPR,
“We have children that are suffering, and nothing else is helping these children. And we know by the evidence that this cannabis oil is helps these epileptic children. It’s time to get it to them. Whatever it takes to break the barriers down, it’s time to do it. It’s passed time to do it.”
While the proposal sponsored by Sen. Clark would not allow for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, the second piece of medical marijuana legislation does regulate production and distribution. House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring a bill, HB 3, that would permit licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from several different debilitating medical conditions, and also allow for licensed medical marijuana cultivators, producers and retailers.
Sen. Clark’s medical marijuana bills have been filed in Kentucky for the last three years, but they have never received enough support. Many patients in the Bluegrass State are hoping that 2015 will be different, and that legislators will realize that they did not actually provide relief to a single person by passing the limited and unworkable CBD oil legislation last year.
Unfortunately, Kentucky is not the only state that has approved limited cannabidiol oil legislation that has proven to help no one. Patients in Iowa are having the same problem, and now officials in Georgia are considering approving a similarly unworkable measure. It is important for people to talk about these issues and share knowledge and experiences because the more it is talked about, the more it will be accepted.
photo credit: buycbdoilonline
Medical marijuana has been a hot topic in the Kentucky state legislature over the last few years. It has often been brought up, but it has never received much support. Next year will be no different. Legislators of the Kentucky General Assembly are expected to hear at least two different medical marijuana proposals when it reconvenes in 2015.
In the spring of 2014, an extremely limited and essentially unworkable medical marijuana bill, SB 124, was signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear. The bill amends the state constitution’s definition of marijuana to exclude the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD). Pure cannabidiol oil is legal, but nothing containing any amount of THC is covered. The bill also states that it is legal only when used for “FDA-approved studies or compassionate use programs treating individuals with seizure disorders.” This bill also requires the cannabidiol only be distributed by the written order of a physician practicing at a state research hospital. The wording of the bill creates many barriers.
The intentions behind this amendment were good, but it does not cover a few important aspects. This amendment allows the use of only one single compound, cannabidiol. Even the famous strain, Charlotte’s Web, seen in the CNN documentary which inspired Dr. Sanjay Gupta to begin supporting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, contained other cannabinoids including trace amounts of psychoactive, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
In many cases doctors believe it is the “entourage effect” that makes cannabis therapy so successful. It is the combination of multiple cannabinoids, of which there are more than 80, that effectively treats severe medical conditions. For example, in a recent study of cannabinoids and brain cancer, it was the combination of both THC and CBD working together that caused the tumor to shrink. SB 124 also does not allow for patients suffering from any condition other than seizures to use marijuana, but the plant has proven successful in treating many different conditions such as different forms of cancer, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimers and more.
Patients and advocates are calling for safe, reliable access to medical marijuana, and Kentucky legislators will be given the opportunity to vote on at least two different proposals. Senator Perry Clark has already filed a medical marijuana bill for 2015. It is reportedly the same bill that the Louisville democrat has introduced each of the last three years. This proposal would allow for physicians to recommend medical marijuana to qualifying patients, as well as remove legal prosecution against qualifying patients caught in possession of marijuana. This bill also allows for home cultivation, and the development of caregiver programs. It does not establish a system for regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.
The second bill expected to be filed with the Kentucky state legislature in 2015, will be introduced by House Speaker Greg Stumbo. Stumbo explained in a released statement that he has been inspired to introduce this bill by the stories patients have shared with him about their medical marijuana use, and it is important that people share cannabis education. He explained,
“I think it’s one of those issues … that the more people learn about it, the less they fear it. I don’t believe that this is opening the flood gates. I believe the stories of the families that I hear from because I know them. They’re reputable people.”
The bill that Stumbo introduces is expected to be slightly different by allowing for the establishment and regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. Dispensaries would be able to provide patients with safe, reliable access to the plant. This framework may also generate a good amount in tax revenue for the state, similar to what has been seen in Colorado.