House panel unanimously approves cannabis oil bill, leaving it one step from the governor's desk

03/19/2014 01:26 PM

What supporters and the bill’s sponsor said was once a long shot — for Kentucky lawmakers to approve a substance derived from the hemp or marijuana plant for medical use — is just one vote away from becoming reality.

The measure unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 124 would allow the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville research hospitals to isolate the compound cannabidiol and give it to patients suffering from debilitating seizures.

Rita Wooton, who’s four-year old son Eli suffers from multiple seizure disorders, has made the nearly 300-mile round trip from Hyden in southeast Kentucky to Frankfort twice this session to urge legislators to approve the bill.

On her second trip Wednesday, Wooton described herself as a near medical refugee because she was preparing to move from Kentucky in order to get help for Eli.

“Now it’s looking like you all are standing up for us and being proud Kentuckians to help us,” she said.

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, who brought the legislation, said the bill “was a long shot” because of the perception that the compound is marijuana “when it’s not.”

Denton credited the Epilepsy Foundation as well as Rep. John Tilley and Sen. Whitney Westerfield — both of Hopkinsville — for their support on the bill. Westerfield and Tilley, both chair their respective chambers’ judiciary committees and pushed for the legislation to help an infant in their district named Clara — for whom the legislation will be named.

Tilley, told Pure Politics last week that the legislation “has tremendous support” in Judiciary committee the bill cleared without a no vote and the full Senate approved the bill 38-0.

One bill Tilley said his committee will not bring up for a vote this session is Rep. Mary Lou Marzian’s House Bill 350, which would allow medical marijuana in the state. That bill was transferred into his committee after an initial hearing in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Tilley said he would likely have a hearing on medical marijuana, but it might be just for “information only” adding that he’s not sure the support is there to vote the bill out of the House.


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