Kentucky House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill
The Bluegrass State has taken one more step towards providing relief for Kentuckians with qualifying conditions.
The Kentucky House of Representatives passed Jason Nemes’ latest effort at a medical marijuana bill on March 17 in a 59-34 vote.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where it may face a rockier path than it did in the House. Nemes wrote a similar bill that passed the House in 2020 before dying in the Senate. This time, however, it appears as though the congressman has crafted legislation that has a real chance to become law.
Medical Marijuana Bill would Respect Local Communities’ Rights, Generate Business in Kentucky
HB 136 would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with qualifying conditions, which would include cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy, chronic nausea, and PTSD.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the law would also allow individual counties to opt out of allowing medical marijuana, and would allow cities in those counties to allow it in spite of their county’s stance.
U.S. News and World Report says if the law were to pass, four kinds of businesses would be created: cannabis farmers, processors, dispensaries, and safety testers.
Medical Marijuana Bill Written to Attract Republican Support
Nemes has now introduced medical marijuana legislation in three straight years, but this time he took care to make the bill especially attractive to the group of lawmakers most likely to reject such laws: his own Republican colleagues.
We’ve told you that Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer has said he’d vote against the bill, but he wouldn’t stand in the way of it coming to a vote if there was enough support from his fellow Republicans to pass the bill.
According to U.S. News and World
Report, Nemes made a point when debating the bill in committee to say his current bill “features layers of safeguards” to prevent misuse of the medicine and to keep Kentucky’s from evolving into a state where recreational cannabis use is allowed. He also admitted that the bill is “tighter” than he would have liked so as to attract support from GOP lawmakers.
And it appears as though that strategy may be working.
“Powerful” Kentucky Republican Lawmaker Comes Around on Medical Marijuana
Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield released a statement on March 9 voicing his support for Nemes’ bill despite his personal reservations about medical marijuana.
“I continue to have concerns about the risk of increased access to marijuana, particularly among youth and young adults for whom it remains a recreational and gateway drug,” Westerfield said. “I also have concerns about the precedent we’re setting by ignoring federal law.”
But Westerfield added that he was swayed to support the bill after hearing from his constituents who had no viable source of relief other than medical marijuana, saying “I’ve heard too many stories, in my district and out, from those long suffering and their loved ones left behind, that marijuana brought comfort and relief when nothing else worked.”
Westerfield’s conversion from opponent to supporter is a good sign for medical marijuana’s chances in Kentucky for two reasons: First, as Cincinnati CityBeat puts it, he is a “powerful” and “prominent” member of the Senate. Second, it shows Nemes’ attempts to court new supporters can indeed win converts.
Nemes told LEO Weekly that he has met with Westerfield several times over the last year and a half, including weekly meetings during the summer of 2021, “to read the bill together, address concerns and do research.”
“He decided, after a lot of study and meeting with his constituents and reading the bill, literally line by line with me, he supports the bill and that’s a massively important development for the bill’s chances to pass the Senate,” Nemes told LEO.
Nemes also told LEO that he has been making similar efforts with leadership and members of the General Assembly meeting with them as often as possible to address their concerns about the bill. Nemes said “he feels ‘strongly’ about the conversations that he has had.
Some Disappointed by Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill
Unfortunately, in shaping his bill to make it more attractive to prohibitionists, Nemes has disappointed others who would like to see a more robust medical marijuana program.
Still, the most important step in the creation of a medical marijuana market is getting it up and running. Both Texas and Minnesota have notoriously restrictive programs, and both of them took steps towards expanding those programs within the past year.
It’s much easier to expand an existing market than it is to establish a market, so even critics of Nemes’ bill see its potential passage as a win for Kentucky.
As LEO Weekly put it, “There are other, much better — and profitable — bills surrounding marijuana sitting in the General Assembly, but they are sponsored by Democrats, meaning they probably don’t have a shot in hell. House Bill 136 wouldn’t end all of Kentucky’s issues surrounding marijuana — most pressingly that people continue to get arrested and sit in jail for the same drug that is legally dispensed for fun one state over.”
Ultimately, despite whatever shortcomings the bill may have, LEO’s headline reads “It Needs to Pass.”
Start Preparing for Medical Marijuana’s Arrival in Kentucky Today
We have to wait to see how HB 136 fares in the Senate, but you don’t have to wait to take your first steps towards preparing for medical marijuana’s inevitable arrival in Kentucky.
Reserve an evaluation today with one of our caring, qualified doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as Kentucky’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your doctor virtually, using your smartphone, tablet, or computer for a telemedicine appointment, meaning you can find out from the comfort of your own home if medical marijuana might be right for you. Not only that, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-6360, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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