Medical Marijuana Advocates Make Inroads, But Skeptics Urge Caution

Jan 9, 2019

A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers say the tide is turning on medical marijuana in Frankfort, but skeptical undercurrents run deep in the Senate.

An attendant weighs marijuana at the Far West Holistic Center dispensary, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Detroit.
Credit Josh James / WUKY

Eric Crawford broke his neck nearly 25 years ago, and since, he says the standard treatments haven't worked for him.

"I have a lot of spasms and pain and the opiates and muscle relaxers just put me out of my mind and don't work," he explains. "Medical cannabis controls my muscle spasms and helps my pain."

For the time being, Crawford says finding sympathetic physicians is difficult. But under Senate Bill 136, that could change - with doctors gaining free rein to prescribe medical marijuana for any conditions they see fit through state-approved dispensaries.

The big question: Is the bill viable in the GOP-dominated legislature? Louisville Rep. Jason Nemes tells WUKY he's done the head count in the House and the votes are there.

"If it's called for a vote, I think we'll have a strong majority to pass it and then it moves on to the Senate and I hope the pressure mounts over there," the GOP representative said. "I under stand they may have the votes over there. I don't know, I can't really speak to whether they do or don't."

Those Senate Republicans took to the floor Wednesday afternoon for a spirit back-and-forth on the popular issue, with Sens. Dan Seum and Julian Carroll making the case for reform. The latter said he would be willing to represent one Kentuckian who had to obtain medical cannabis from Colorado to treat his epileptic daughter.

"I make no apology for it. I said 'You get it, bring it, and stop your daughter from having a hundred siezures a day and if you get in trouble, call me,'" the former governor told colleagues.

Senate President Robert Stivers reiterated concerns about the research, citing what he said were "50 percent more carcinogens in marijuana" than in tobacco.

"We're going to smoke marijuana and outlaw tobacco? That's a little inconsistent to me," the Manchester Republican said.