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Government & Politics

Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill Probably Won't Pass This Year

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The medical marijuana bill has likely died in the Kentucky House. On Thursday, the bill was discussed in the Health and Welfare committee but wasn’t given a vote. After the committee hearing, House Speaker Stumbo, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation wouldn’t pass during this General Assembly session.

“If in fact we do this as a General Assembly at some point in time—it’s not going to pass this time, everybody knows that—that we have stringent safeguards in place to make sure that we’re not going to flood the market with another product that might add to our addictive situation,” said Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg. Stumbo also said support is growing for some form of legalization.

The bill would authorize the state Department for Public Health to operate a medical marijuana program. The drug would only be available in non-smokeable forms and patients would have to be diagnosed by a doctor to receive it.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, a Republican from Lexington and former inspector general for the Health and Family Services Cabinet, said prescription guidelines for cannabis aren’t reliable. “Without going through that FDA approval process, how would you or a physician know how much to prescribe, how often to prescribe it, in what strength to prescribe it,” Benvenuti asked during a committee hearing on Thursday. “I’m wondering why we’ve carved off cannabis and decided that it should be immune or not subject to this process.”

Last year a Bluegrass Poll showed that a majority of Kentuckians were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. In 2014, the legislature passed a law that would allow cannabis oil to be produced in the state. Supporters say cannabis oil can help treat epileptic children, but the program has been slow to get off the ground because of possible legal issues.

If the bill did pass the House, it would have to battle through the Republican-led Senate. Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said he didn’t imagine his chamber would consider it.

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