[Editor’s Note: Kentucky is making headway on getting medical cannabis legalized. Doctors, not lawmakers, should determine who gets medical marijuana.]
Medical marijuana might be on its way to Kentucky, thanks to a state senator who smoked cannabis after being diagnosed with cancer.
It has been said that all that really needs to happen to further the marijuana legalization movement in the United States is to get all of the pot-hating naysayers stoned for the first time. Then these political figures, religious zealots and cold-fish conservatives could see for themselves that weed is not as frightening as they been told all of these years. But that’s the trick, you see: persuading the other side to enter another dimension, even just for a second, to see whether they can appreciate, or at least understand anything other than what they’ve been programmed to accept all of their lives. Change is hard for some, even harder once they’ve been convinced that apocalyptic rumblings will transpire in the days, weeks and years after they inhale. But submission does happen on occasion, and this first dance with the doobie almost always results in a change of opinion. In fact, it could be what eventually leads Kentucky to enter the realm of a legal state.
Last week, a group of Republican lawmakers introduced a bill, House Bill 136, designed to bring medical marijuana to the Bluegrass State. Considering that the GOP has been one of the main reasons the state has not yet ventured into toking territory, it is somewhat curious as to why this group of elephant-eared suits has all of a sudden decided to switch sides on this debate. Well, it turns out that one of them “smoked a joint” a few years ago while undergoing treatment for cancer, which completely changed his attitude toward the concept of medicinal cannabis.
State Sen. Dan Seum, of Bullitt County, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that weed eliminated his nausea and kept him from taking opioid painkillers. He believes Kentuckians should have the freedom to experience this magic as well. He has signed on to a companion measure for legislation filed in the House.
A Medical Marijuana Program Without Qualifying Conditions
The basis of the medical marijuana proposals being pushed in the Kentucky General Assembly is that doctors should be making the call on whether patients can use medical marijuana, not the lawmakers. While this sounds like common sense to most, many Kentucky lawmakers remain skeptical that cannabis has any therapeutic benefit at all.
On Wednesday, Senate President Robert Stivers didn’t provide much hope that medical marijuana would find success in the new year. During a discussion on the subject, he asked, “Where is the study?” when proponents mentioned the therapeutic value of the plant. “Deliver me the study. An appropriate Tier 3 study with control groups that says it is medicinal or therapeutic,” he said.
Although medical marijuana is legal in more than 30 states, it remains a Schedule I outlaw substance at the federal level. This has made it next to impossible for scientists to explore the potential benefits of the herb to give those apprehensive fools like Stivers some reassurance that legal weed is a solid alternative treatment and will not drag civil society into the sewer.
But there is a large body of evidence that medical marijuana is useful for a variety of health conditions. A study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which was overseen by the country’s top scientific minds, found definitive proof that marijuana is an effective treatment for pain, nausea, spasms and insomnia. No, it doesn’t appear to cure cancer, according to the report, but it can help ease the symptoms associated with chemotherapy treatments.
There are also studies that have found that medical marijuana could be an active combatant in the scourge of the opioid epidemic. Nevertheless, the federal government maintains that pot has no medicinal value, which is what some state lawmakers, like Stivers, seem to have gotten hung up on.
But the bill that pro-pot lawmakers are working to get passed does not come with a list of qualified conditions. These forward-thinking individuals are of the opinion that if a medical professional deems marijuana a possible treatment for any condition, a patient, many of which have found little to no relief with prescription drugs, should have the right to use it.
“We’re trying to address the 40,000 to 60,000 Kentuckians who are not having symptoms addressed by conventional medicines,” said Representative Diane St. Onge, one of the sponsors of the House Bill 136.
Does the Bill Have a Chance to Pass?
There is some belief that the measure has enough support to make it through the House this year, but considering the poor attitude of Senate leadership, it will likely not received any attention. That could stop progress altogether. House Majority Leader John Carney told the Lexington Herald-Leader that as long as the bill is a non-starter in the Senate, the House isn’t going to mess with it. “We’re not going to vote on it unless it could probably go through both chambers,” he said.
Sen. Seum, the Republican who shifted on pot reform after getting high for the first time, believes that if the bill can get some traction in the lower chamber, the Senate will bite. “I think that if the House passes the bill … there’s some movement in the Senate,” he said. “There are some people who just aren’t talking.”
One thing is sure, medical marijuana is what the people want. A Kentucky Health Issues poll published in 2012 found that even back then nearly 80 percent of the population was in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Still, lawmakers have continued to sandbag the issue year after year even though most of their concerns have been discounted by other legal states.
Perhaps the only chance Kentucky has at legalizing medical marijuana this year is if more of the state’s Republicans smoke a joint. We’d be happy to facilitate in this research. Just have your people call our people.