To the cheers and tears of advocates, House panel narrowly passes medical marijuana bill

02/27/2014 04:30 PM

After a dramatic vote change, a House panel narrowly approved a bill to allow Kentuckians access to medical marijuana with a prescription.

Medical marijuana has had several hearings both in the interim and during the regular session, but not until Thursday has a House committee voted on the measure. Even with all the testimony the panel has heard, the vote proved to be a difficult one, as it required Democratic Reps. Susan Westrom and Reginald Meeks to switch from passing to voting for the bill.

Many in the audience cheered after the final vote and spilled into the hallway where tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of advocates and the chronically ill like Karen Carby of Lexington who was diagnosed last year with incurable liver cancer.

An obviously emotional Carby said the bill represents her life. “That’s what I’m asking is for Kentucky to give me the gift of life,” she said.

Testifying in favor of the bill was University of Arizona College of Medicine Dr. Sue Sisley who said marijuana shows promise for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a number of other ailments including cancer.

After the committee, Sisley told Pure Politics the passage of the bill is a “real triumph” because of the political courage it took for politicians to vote for the bill.

Sisley also answered questions about case trials and studies that members of the committee were asking to see, as well as concerns of the number of cases of drivers operating cars under the influence of marijuana.

But some lawmakers said they were concerned the measure was too much too fast and had language that was too broad. Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, advocated for more study before the General Assembly signs off on a drug which is currently listed as having no redeeming medical purpose, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Traveling from Virginia to testify was Michael Krawitz who is a veteran of the United States Air Force who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. In an a particularly emotional exchange Krawitz told Benvenuti that marijuana let’s him interact with his family.

“I am a disabled United States Air Force Veteran. Why do I have to leave this country for my medical needs to be met,” Krawitz said.

Krawitz has been working with Veterans Affairs Hospitals in the 20 states which have already passed medical marijuana laws to prescribe the drug to veterans. Which he says they’re open and willing to do.

House Bill 350 , if approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor, would set up a system to prescribe and use marijuana for medical purposes.

After Westrom and Meeks changed their votes the bill passed 9 to 5 with Republicans Rep. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, Rep. Robert Benvenuti of Lexington, Rep. Bob Deweese of Louisville, Rep. Tim Moore of Elizabethtown and Rep. Russell Webber of Shepherdsville voting no.


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