By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky lawmakers Wednesday voted in committee on a policy to move forward on the legalization of marijuana for medical purpose. The vote in the House Judiciary Committee marks the first step in a very long legislative process with only five legislative days remaining in the 2019 session.
House Bill 136, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Fort Wright, and Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, would allow for the prescription of marijuana for medicinal use.
The sponsors say they have brought the bill forward in order to give comfort and relief to a large underserved population in the commonwealth who suffer from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, to name a few, and need another option for their chronic pain.
The bill sets up a process for a new industry with a grower, producer, processor, dispensary and tester to make sure product is safe.
In the bill, a doctor can prescribe medical marijuana if the patient suffers from certain conditions listed in the legislation and the patient can take that prescription to a dispensary to be filled. The doctor would have to report that prescription to the Board of Medical Licensure to ensure the patient’s prescriptions/use would be registered in KASPER, the state’s controlled substance prescription monitoring system designed to be a source of information to assist practitioners and pharmacists with providing medical and pharmaceutical patient care.
Tax revenue would not be collected on medical marijuana sales/prescriptions and the only revenue would come from a small, one-time excise tax on those within the production process that would go to law enforcement, implementation and a fund to help the poorest Kentuckians in need of the medication who cannot afford it. The bill sponsors explained they did not want to raise money off the legalization of medical marijuana because it would be raising money on the backs of sick individuals.
When asked about employer liability, the bill sponsors explained they have worked with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and others to ensure employer language is included that would ensure employers can maintain drug-free workplaces to protect themselves from potential liability.
Changes to the bill presented to the committee include the removal of a home grow provision that would have allowed people to grow plants in their own home, the prohibition of smoking of medical marijuana, ensuring that no state sales tax is being collected, limits on THC hallucinogenic properties in the plant and product, and language stating that medical marijuana could not contain any more than 10 mg of THC per serving.
Proponents of the legislation testified in front of lawmakers about the difficulties they face with their conditions, chronic pain and other issues which they feel medical marijuana could help. They also expressed the legal concerns they have in currently using or considering marijuana to help their ailments.
Others also testified with concerns about the bill noting the need for strong inspection and investigation of this type of new process as well as apprehensions about the lack of knowledge and guidelines for such legalization and encouraged the legislature to go slow and study the issue carefully.
Ultimately, the committee voted to move forward with the bill with 16 members voting yes, one voting no, and one member passing. The legislation now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.