Medical marijuana bill withers as committee chair promises action over interim, advocates say they've been promised twice before

04/01/2016 10:42 AM

A medical marijuana advocate with family ties to the legislature is heated after legislation he says could save lives and ease medical burden on those suffering serious illnesses will once again not be heard during the legislative session.

Senate Bill 263 was filed on March 2 to create a comprehensive system to prescribe, use, grow and regulate medical cannabis in Kentucky. The legislation was sent to the Senate’s Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee chaired by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union.

Schickel told Pure Politics this week that he is “open” to medical marijuana, but he wanted to proceed with caution.

“During the interim we’re going to have a hearing, maybe more than one, we’re going to have the American Medical Association, the cannabis people. Get them all together and air it out, and hopefully get something where we can do something thoughtfully next session,” Schickel said.

As the Union Republican calls for a hearing this summer, he said he also wants to see “the science” behind the drug which now has legal grounds for medical use in 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.

For advocates the health benefits are clear, and they fear waiting another year for safe access will cost lives or send sick Kentuckians and their families to prison.

Dan Seum Jr., the legislative affairs coordinator for Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana and the son of Sen. Dan “Malano” Seum, said the group has already brought expert witnesses including doctors and researchers that lawmakers are asking for, but they’re still feeling shutdown.

“The science is there and I’m just not — I can’t let them use that as their excuse,” Seum said. “I don’t think that’s sufficient.”

One of the reasons Seum and Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana are pushing so hard is for patients like Eric Crawford, a quadriplegic of 22-years, who Seum says will go blind from glaucoma within a year if he does not consume marijuana. Seum also mentioned the harrowing number of veterans who are committing suicide in Kentucky from PTSD — he said they need safe access to the drug.

The group has also brought in experts to testify on the use of the drug for children suffering from diseases which impact their quality of life.

“Yet they won’t give a hearing,” Seum said, admitting there was a vote in committee in 2014 in the House Health and Welfare which passed, but was never moved to the floor for a vote, instead being moved back into the committee system and effectively squashed.

The reason, Seum thought lawmakers were only comfortable holding a hearing, and not a vote on the issue, was fear of losing elections and control of power.

“I really think they’re afraid to vote on this bill in committee, because then that puts them on record as to if they’re for or against, and the tide is turning,” Seum said. “These people — these legislators don’t want to lose their seat or jeopardize it and I really think they’re playing more politics then they are anything.”

Watch the full interview with Seum in the video below.


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