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Kentucky Sets Stage for Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Under House Bill 136, Kentuckians with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis could be prescribed medical marijuana. (@LittleIvan/Twenty20)
Under House Bill 136, Kentuckians with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis could be prescribed medical marijuana. (@LittleIvan/Twenty20)
March 11, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky lawmakers have taken the first steps toward legalizing medical marijuana.

House Bill 136 is up for a House vote. It would allow patients with certain medical conditions to be prescribed medical marijuana by their physician, and would permit marijuana plants to be grown in the state by licensed growers and dispensaries.

Marijuana advocates maintain medical marijuana can help alleviate chronic pain and decrease addiction to opioids. But Douglas Oyler, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky, says the scientific data is slim.

"It's a really complicated problem,” he states. “And this isn't to say that increasing marijuana access might help – it could.

“But I don't think that there's really good causative data here to say that yes, we know that increasing access to this is going to reduce the number of individuals who take opioids for pain."

According to the latest report from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, an estimated 50 million Americans live with chronic pain.

The bill would not allow medical marijuana to be smoked, and would limit the amount of THC, the active component in marijuana, to 70 percent.

The legislation is sponsored by state Reps. Diane St. Onge and Jason Nemes, both Republicans.

St. Onge says there are stipulations in the bill that would give employers the right not to hire someone with a medical marijuana card.

"If an employer chooses to have a drug free work zone, that is their privilege to do so,” she states. “Now, if they have not indicated that in their policy, and someone is hired and they're an employee, and then there's an incident that happens, the employee has recourse, in the sense that this was not something they were aware of from the beginning."

So far 33 states, including Ohio, have legalized medical marijuana.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY