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'I'm in shock': Medical marijuana on track to become law in Kentucky

Josh James

In a historic vote, the Kentucky General Assembly granted final passage to a medical marijuana bill on the last day of the legislative session.

"There being 66 members voting aye, 33 members voting nay, Senate Bill 47 is passed," House Speaker David Osborne said, as applause erupted in the chamber.

Lawmakers broke a years-long logjam with both the House and Senate finally agreeing to legalize medical cannabis — though eligible Kentuckians will still have a wait in front of them.

The passage of SB47 came after a lengthy floor debate in the House, with Rep. Kim Moser urging colleagues to hold off for more state-level research to be conducted.

"Take a pause, let the research center do their work, and vote no today," the Republican said.

Democrat Al Gentry noted most states have already legalized medicinal cannabis in some form.

"If we were going to hell in a handbasket in this state if we pass this bill, don't you think we would have already seen this in 37 other states?" the representative argued.

Ultimately, medical marijuana proponents prevailed. Outside the chamber, Julie Cantwell with Kentucky Moms for Medical Cannabis was all hugs.

"I don't even know how I feel. I'm in shock because it has taken many, many years to get this passed, and just to believe that we're actually here and this has happened is just unbelievable," she said.

Cantwell's mother, Lisa Trogden, was diagnosed with brain cancer over a year ago, and despite having trouble adjusting to the high produced by THC she said eventually medical cannabis drastically improved her quality of life.

"I feel like my brain is healing. I'm not sick. I feel good every day. My blood work numbers have been good," she reports.

Yet many restrictions are attached to the bill. It would not legalize the smoking of medicinal cannabis and would only allow use for a number of conditions, including cancer, chronic severe pain, and epilepsy, among others. Any subsequent condition recommended by the Cannabis Research Center at the University of Kentucky could be added to the list.

Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to sign the bill, which won't take effect until 2025.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.