FRANKFORT— Doctors may soon be permitted to prescribe medicinal cannabis to Kentuckians with certain medical conditions.
House Bill 136 would legalize medicinal cannabis as a treatment option for people with cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic nausea, cyclical vomiting, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, has carried similar legislation in the House before, but the measures failed to receive approval from both chambers. Nemes said he’s worked with many people over the years to make changes to the legislation that more lawmakers could support.
“When I took this bill and grabbed it by the horns and made it tighter, I worked with a lot of you, a lot of senators and made it to where this is truly a bill for people who are just trying to be and just trying to be better,” Nemes told lawmakers on the House floor.
Nemes added he does not support recreational marijuana and was originally against medicinal marijuana, but had a change of heart after hearing about the benefits of medicinal cannabis.
HB 136 would not allow people to grow their own marijuana or smoke cannabis, aside from vaping. Nemes said only Kentuckians 21 and older would be permitted to vape medicinal cannabis.
Another provision of the bill would create four different licenses to prevent just one person or company from being able to grow, process, dispense and test medicinal cannabis for safety. Prescriptions would also be tracked through the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system.
On the House floor, Nemes successfully amended the bill to require legislative approval for conditions to be added or removed from the approved list.
Rep. Rachel Roberts, D-Newport, also successfully amended the bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of approved conditions. She said out of the 37 other states that have legalized medicinal cannabis, all of them allow it as a treatment for PTSD. A clinical diagnosis would be required for a patient to be eligible for a medicinal cannabis prescription.
Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, spoke on the House floor in favor of HB 136 by sharing how medicinal cannabis has helped people he knows.
“I know real people that have had their lives turned around by these products, and a lot of them are living in the closet or living in secrecy because they feel like they’re a criminal,” Gentry said.
Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, said he understands and has compassion for people who are in pain, but he has legal concerns about the bill.
“The fact of the matter is marijuana, whether medical or recreational, is still illegal in the federal government,” Fugate said, adding doctors and pharmacists risk losing their United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) license by prescribing medicinal cannabis. Fugate also expressed concerns about addiction.
Nemes said while marijuana is illegal under federal law, the federal government has said it would not prosecute against cannabis use for medicinal purposes in states where it is legal.
Rep. Matt Lockett, R-Nicholasville, also expressed concerns about HB 136. He believes medicinal cannabis needs more research.
“I do believe that it can be a great tool in our tool belt in the medical community. However, I do believe that it deserves a lot more time,” Lockett said.
In explaining her “yes” vote, Rep. Norma Kirk-McCormick, R-Inez, said she has also seen how medicinal cannabis helps people with chronic medical conditions.
Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, also voted in favor of HB 136 with her constituents in mind.
“I’ve cast many votes in support of medicinal marijuana before because the people of District 20 asked me to do it — people from every walk of life,” Minter said.
The House approved HB 136 by a 59-34 vote. It will now go before the Senate for consideration.