Medical Marijuana gets new fire

08/24/2018 07:38 PM

FRANKFORT- The debate over medical marijuana is firing up once again in Frankfort.

The Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations held a hearing Friday to discuss soon to be proposed legislation and hear from advocates.

The possibility of legalizing medical marijuana in the bluegrass state is seeing new life through two new sponsors, Republican Reps. Diane St. Ogne, R-Fort Wright and Jason Nemes, R-Louisville.

After HB 166 stalled in committee last session, Nemes vowed to try and pass medical marijuana during the 2019 session. He explained to the committee why he changed his tune on the use of medicinal marijuana.

“I know that medical cannabis can help some folks. I know that if it would help my son I would break the law in a heartbeat,” he said. “I would do it, and it not be illegal for our neighbors to do it who are in need, or whose children are in need. That’s what this bill is fundamentally about.”

The bill has yet to be prefiled as the sponsors say they are still trying to gather input in crafting bill. But they were firm that the legislation would not be a path toward legalizing recreational marijuana.

The bill has three major components. First, it will allow patients to grow their own marijuana. Qualifying patients will be able to have six adult plants and six seedlings. Home growing was included for several reason they say—to allow patients who may not be able to afford buying from a dispensary and for patients who live in rural parts of the state where it may not be practical for them to drive to a dispensary.

Second, the bill will not include a list of qualifying conditions which is common in other states. The sponsors say this was done to allow doctors to determine if a patient should be recommended to use medical marijuana instead of telling a doctor which conditions qualify.

And third, it will include an opt out for counties and cities. HB 166 allowed counties and cities to opt in to allowing medical marijuana pharmacies in their communities. In the new version local governments will have to decide to ban medical marijuana dispensaries from their communities—but patients would still be allowed to grow their own in those areas.

“This is not something we are trying to hide. This is something we want every Kentuckian to have, and opting out is opting out of the businesses that are associated with medical marijuana—not the use. Every Kentuckian will be able to use this under the strict regulatory guidelines.” explained Rep. St. Ogne.

There are several regulations imposed in the new version that differ greatly from last years version.

One of those regulations is the creation of the Department of Cannabis Administration which will regulate the doctors who are recommending patients use marijuana. The bill will also ban sharing and selling by patients. The previous version allowed patients to share with other card holders. Doctors also must register with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure so they are able to be monitored to ensure they are not over prescribing. Smoking will also not be allowed in public and public accommodations and landlords would be able to ban smoking in their rental properties. A patient may only hold up 30 days of product down 90 days in HB 166. Businesses are also limited in they way they market their product as to not attract children. Finally, patients from out of state are only able to buy ten days worth of product in Kentucky—only if their state has medical marijuana. So an Ohio resident can cross into Kentucky and receive medical marijuana but someone from Tennessee can not.

In order to get a card, the patient must have a legitimate patient relationship with the recommending doctor. The doctor then will certify the patient has a condition that can be helped by medical cannabis. The patient then will get their card through the Department of Cannabis Administration. The card will also say if the patient is self-growing their own marijuana. If they agree to self grow—their information will be given to law enforcement.

There are four business areas that will be licensed for medical marijuana. The cultivator, the processor, the dispenser all can be one business. In order to be licensed 60 percent of the owners have to be a Kentucky resident for at least three years. The final license will go to safety compliance facilities—which can not have the same ownership as the other three.

While a majority of the lawmakers in the committee seemed to be in support of the legislation. Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, was not sold on allowing medical marijuana in Kentucky. She was not alone—Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, was not sold on the idea either—he especially didn’t like the inclusion of the home grow aspect in the legislation saying he would not support that part of the legislation. He also questioned why not just allow use of oil as opposed to smoking. Executive Director of Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana Jamie Montalvo explained to Sen. Thayer why patients prefer to use the flower version of cannabis as opposed to oil.

“Those products are out of reach, they aren’t covered by insurance. Their totally out of pocket most people don’t know what the pills or oil are. They are unaware—but they do know that smoking marijuana helps them ease their pain or their nausea.” Montalvo said.

The committee will be hearing form opponents of medical marijuana in their meeting in September.

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at michon.lindstrom@charter.com

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