Stumbo files medical marijuana bill; advocates say it's past time for Ky. to take action

01/06/2015 09:02 PM

With the 2015 legislative session underway, Kentucky lawmakers will again consider a controversial topic already debated in legislatures across the country — marijuana reform.

Twenty-three states in the U.S. have bucked the federal prohibition on marijuana to allow their residents to use the cannabis plant with a doctor’s approval.

In Kentucky, longtime political candidate Gatewood Galbraith, who died in 2012, used the issue of marijuana as a key tenant to his platform, and in the past several sessions both House and Senate members have filed legislation to allow medicinal marijuana in the state.

None other than House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat and former state attorney general, will file a medical marijuana bill. On Tuesday, Stumbo said House Bill 3 was being filed and would be named after Galbriath, but he was unsure of the success the legislation could have.

With states around the country changing the status of marijuana, Stumbo told Pure Politics that if his bill were to pass he did not fear repercussions from the federal government. Even though close to half of all states have changed their laws, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Over the interim session the non-profit group Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana — an education-driven advocacy group headed by Jaime Montalvo, who suffers from multiple sclerosis — has gone before multiple interim joint committees to ask lawmakers to pass marijuana reforms in Kentucky.

“We are not working on access for everybody. We are working to get access for medical cannabis — medical marijuana for patients suffering from illnesses like ALS, MS, seizures, even Alzheimer’s disease,” Montalvo said. “These are patients with legitimate illness, legitimate conditions that are suffering and are basically out of options.”

While lawmakers again debate the merits of medicinal cannabis in committee, if such legislation makes it to committee, this session, Montalvo says Kentuckians who are suffering have been watching and learning from the states who acted first.

“We’re 18 years behind on legislation for medical marijuana — California passed it back in 1996. We’re 14 years behind Nevada and Colorado. It’s time that we move forward,” Montalvo said.

“We’re not breaking new ground. We need to learn from the mistakes that other states have made and have a fully functioning medical cannabis bill where people can get safe access to it, but have it in a way that it’s regulated, the state knows all of the patients, all of the compassion centers. Anybody in the industry, the state should know.”

Watch the full interview with Montalvo below:

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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