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House Bill 136, a bill pertaining to the statewide legalization of medical marijuana, seems poised to easily make its way through the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Of the 100 members that make up the lower house of the Kentucky General Assembly, 51 representatives (35 Democrats and 16 Republicans) have signed on with the filer, Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican, to co-sponsor the bill. One of those co-sponsors is Rep. Jim Glenn, an Owensboro Democrat.

“It is basically for people that have medical needs,” Glenn said. “That is why I am supporting it, I’m just trying to be flexible in my thinking. The world we are in has changed and the states that border us have already moved in that direction. I am just trying to help those that need additional medical help.

“You don’t know what helps people as far as medicine is concerned and you are trying to help all of those you can help. Life is hard and being sick is hard, we are trying to give the doctors and the patients as many medical bullets as we can to fight whatever fight they are fighting.”

Another area representative, Rep. Scott Lewis, a Hartford Republican, while not being listed as a co-sponsor, is also in support of the bill, he said.

“I am not for recreational, but I can support this bill,” he said. “I personally know some people that it could help medically with seizures, Parkinson’s (disease) and things like that. The way it is written makes sure that it is tightly used for medical purposes. I have had people that I trust tell me that there are a lot of medical benefits to it and with the opioid crisis that we have if that can be prescribed instead, it would sure make a lot of sense. I intend on voting on it.”

Rep. Suzanne Miles, an Owensboro Republican, declined to comment for this story.

A similar bill was approved in a legislative committee during the 2019 session but was not called to a full vote. The highly detailed, 134-page bill has obviously been tailored over the years to attempt to address concerns from various entities.

In its simplest form, the bill would allow medical marijuana to become legal in the state but mandates heavy oversight on all parties that would be involved — doctors, patients, dispensaries, caregivers and more, with producers and sellers being certified by the state and caps set being on the THC level of the marijuana.

The bill also removes a patient’s ability to smoke the plant but does allow it to be used via vaping or through edibles. Supporters of the bill intend to only tax medical marijuana enough to cover regulating the industry.

While the bill’s trajectory to the Senate seems to be a forgone conclusion, its future when it reaches the 38 members of the upper house has yet to be seen. However, Sen. Matt Castlen, an Owensboro Republican, and Sen. Robby Mills, a Henderson Republican, do not see themselves voting in favor of the proposed bill.

“I’m opposed to that bill and I still think that there are a lot of questions as far as legalization in any form,” Mills said. “I go back to studies over the past 35 years of it being legalized in Europe and their ongoing issues surrounding crime and schizophrenia. Why would allow another drug to be introduced when we are spending millions of dollars with others and fighting opioids? I get the issues of the people that are pleading for it, but I think it is poor public policy before we understand better what is going on, we need a more comprehensive approach.”

Castlen would not vote for the current form of the bill, but he said he does not doubt the potential medical benefits of medical marijuana, he said.

“My worry with it is releasing it out there in a smokable form,” he said. “I couldn’t support it in the smokable way. The biggest issue for me are these trials. I have seen us use plants and agriculture products to transform things and do great things in medicine and food. There is no doubt that this plant has benefits but I need entrusted sources and would like to see our universities have the opportunity to do trials. No one has brought any university studies to my office and I need facts to make a decision. I couldn’t support it as it is written.”

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