Kentucky lawmakers are pushing once again to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. However, the proposal being discussed this time around is an extremely restrictive approach, as it would only allow terminally ill patients to gain access to cannabis medicine.
State Senator Morgan McGarvey of Louisville announced earlier this week that he would soon introduce a proposal aimed at legalizing marijuana specifically for patients about to die. The goal of this measure is to give physicians the freedom to issue recommendations for the herb to those folks in position where hospice care is the only available option.
"There are people who are suffering, and we are prescribing morphine for these people right now," McGarvey said, according to WDRB. "But we're unwilling to give them marijuana to help them get through their chemotherapy treatments, to help them digest food or to help them enjoy the last months of their life."
Although a similar bill did not so much as receive a hearing during this year’s session, mostly because lawmakers are still convinced that it is a backdoor to full-blown legalization, McGarvey feels confident the issue will gain some traction in 2018.
“People right now are seeking out marijuana in Kentucky when they have cancer, when they have really serious illnesses, but they’re doing it illegally,” McGarvey told Kentucky Public Radio. “What we’re hearing from Democrats and Republicans, from physicians, from people across the board is we need to provide some relief for people who have really serious illnesses.”
It is no secret that Kentucky is struggling with the marijuana issue. A few years ago, the state implemented an ultra-restrictive low-THC program, but lawmakers still cannot seem to agree on how to make a more comprehensive medical marijuana program work without merging the state towards a fully legal market.
Even Governor Matt Bevin has said that he would be open to signing a medical marijuana law.
"I am not opposed to the idea of medical marijuana," the governor said earlier this year. "If prescribed like other drugs, if administered in the same way that we would other pharmaceutical drugs, I think it would be appropriate in many respects."
Still, lawmakers have failed to put a bill on his desk.
This debate has dragged on for so long that local marijuana advocates have even taken to the courts.
Last week, a group of plaintiffs filed a complaint in Franklin County Circuit Court that argues the state’s ban on medical marijuana is a violation of their constitutional rights. The lawsuit states that the government cannot prevent the use of effective medicine without rhyme or reason.
Unfortunately, even if MCGarvey’s bill does generate interest in the coming session, the measure would do nothing to help potentially hundreds of thousands of patients that could benefit from a comprehensive reform.
A recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows that around 80 percent of Kentucky voters support the legalization of medical marijuana.