Change in federal law energizes effort to legalize medical marij - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Change in federal law energizes effort to legalize medical marijuana in Ky.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A change in federal law is energizing the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky.

Supporters believe they now have a new opportunity because the spending bill signed this week by President Obama, in effect, ends the federal ban on medical marijuana.

Cancer patient David Yunt hopes Kentucky lawmakers will notice. Yunt has extensive collection of Civil War memorabilia, but it used to be much larger. He sold most of it to pay for expensive cancer treatments, including medications that he says ravaged his body.

"I didn't want to eat, didn't care to eat, had no energy to get up out of the bed. And I decided it was time to die," Yunt said.

At a friend's urging, Yunt says he finally got relief from smoking marijuana. But that stopped when he was arrested.

"I became a criminal for saving my life," he said.

But Yunt has new hope that might change. The new federal spending bill defunds Justice Department efforts to shut down medical marijuana clinics in states where they are legal.

Kentucky is not one of them, but advocates believe the federal change could tip the debate.

"I think it's going to have a huge impact on it this upcoming session. A lot of the legislators here in Kentucky are hesitant about taking action on a medical cannabis bill because they're afraid of what the federal government can do," said Jaime Montalvo, founder of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana.

"We've removed that fear, now we can probably go ahead with a good medical marijuana bill in this state," said Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville.)

Despite the change in enforcement, marijuana is still legally a Schedule 1 narcotic, and some lawmakers are not convinced of any medical benefit.

"I cannot support any bill that allows the smoking of marijuana on the basis that it's somehow a medicine, when the FDA has never found a component within marijuana that they believe is clinically effective," said Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-Lexington.)

While the debate plays out at the state capitol, David Yunt waits.

"I'm not about to use the only medication that helps me, the only medication that takes care of all of the symptoms that I have, because it is illegal and I cannot go to jail," he said.

Perry Clark has pre-filed a medical marijuana bill in the Senate but, so far, the bill has no sponsor in the House.

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