Medical marijuana advocates see potential partner in Gov.-elect Bevin

11/28/2015 12:00 PM

Advocacy group members with Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana are gearing up for another year pushing for legislation legalizing medical access to cannabis in the General Assembly, but this year they’re hoping they have momentum in the form of the new governor.

For Jaime Montalvo of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana, Gov.-elect Matt Bevin could be a major ally in the push for medical access.

“He was the only one willing to come forward and talk about it (during the campaign). I personally spoke to him about it, and he has a very touching reason for supporting medical cannabis,” Montalvo said.

In one of the final debates of the general election at Eastern Kentucky University, Bevin said he would sign legislation legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky. During the debate, Bevin said medical marijuana should be prescribed and regulated like other prescription drugs, adding that there is “unequivocal medical evidence” for benefits of cannabis.

In the Oct. 25 debate, Bevin went on to say he would “never, ever in this state sign legislation encouraging the use of recreational marijuana.”

While there is the support in the Governor’s Office in 2016, Montalvo will still have to convince a majority of the 138 members of the General Assembly to send the legislation to Bevin for his signature.

“We’re bringing forward more patients, more citizens of Kentucky that can benefit from this,” Montalvo said in an interview with Pure Politics. “Our push is getting stronger, we’re getting more organized. We’re having town hall meetings now, where people are feeling more comfortable with coming forward and talking about their experiences or reason for wanting safe access.”

The group has “multiple legislators who are very, very interested” in medical marijuana legislation, Montalvo said. Of those lawmakers, Montalvo added there are around a dozen willing to co-sponsor their bill, but few have stepped forward to be the lead sponsor.

“Nobody wants to be that frontrunner. We have various (lawmakers) who have stated they are willing to think about it, and they are really debating if they want to be the main sponsor, but they don’t have the courage to come forward yet,” Montalvo said.

Politics, Montalvo said, is the reason why he’s have trouble identifying a leader for the legislation. He said that politicians are worried about drawing a challenger or having the issue used against them in a re-election campaign.

However, by not acting lawmakers could soon face challenges from his group.

“There’s various members in the organization who are debating running for office, so we are trying to get members active in politics, and I think this year might see some surprises,” Montalvo said.

Watch the rest of the interview for Mantalvo’s personal story and struggle with multiple sclerosis which led to his advocacy of marijuana, and why the language in the legislation is critical to potential patients.


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