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.

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