Medical marijuana bill sponsor believes legislation has a better chance to pass in 2018

06/21/2017 04:02 PM

FRANKFORT — State Sen. Morgan McGarvey told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare and Family Services on Wednesday that it’s time for Kentucky to allow “medically necessary marijuana” for individuals who are cancer patients and afflicted with end-of-life illnesses to ease their pain.

McGarvey, who filed Senate Bill 243 during the 2017 session that called for allowing the use of marijuana for palliative or end-of-life care, told legislators that the bill is not about opening the door for the future legalization of recreational marijuana.

“This bill is not an attempt to provide marijuana to a large swath of Kentuckians who don’t have legitimate medical problems,” said McGarvey, D-Louisville.

McGarvey believed it was not necessary to bring in experts to testify about the needs for medical marijuana because he says that there isn’t a person around who doesn’t know someone who could benefit from the use of medical cannabis because of an extreme health condition.

“We all have loved ones, friends and family, who have cancer,” McGarvey said. “We all have loved ones, friends, family and constituents, people in our community who have suffered incredibly debilitating illnesses up until the last day of their life. We know these people and these families need some relief.”

McGarvey’s legislation would call for a task force made up of legislators, members of the medical community and other experts who would prepare legislation and present it before the General Assembly and establish issues to be discussed.

“The people on this committee includes elected officials from different areas of government including people from the Governor’s Office, people from drug policy, the Commissioner of Agriculture, but it also takes people from the Kentucky Medical Association, representatives from physicians, representatives from nurses, representatives from law enforcement,” McGarvey said.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, questioned McGarvey about critics who call the bill a prelude to allowing recreational marijuana use as well as who would be designated to distribute it.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, had a suggestion that mirrors Mississippi’s process of distributing medical marijuana regionally.

“Maybe we design it into six congressional districts hospitals, if you will, maybe our state facilities first, UK or U of L, to where they can handle the distribution of this, however it’s going to be done,” Buford said.

Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, is director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, and she said she believes that the time is right to have the conversation about the possible use medical marijuana in Kentucky because it has been studied extensively in recent years, allowing smarter decisions to be made about its use for medical purposes.

“I think that pulling all of that research together and understanding what we’re looking at scientifically is imperative,” Moser said. “I just think we need to, in a coordinated fashion really, you know, maybe a task force is the right way to deal with this and to really understand what has been done, the research out there and moving forward scientifically to create some best evidence-based standard.”

McGarvey expressed optimism that his legislation has a chance during the 2018 session.

He noted that there was no legislator on the committee who spoke against the concept and there was no one at the meeting to speak out against his proposed legislation.


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