Kentucky secretary of state unveils proposal to legalize medical marijuana
Advocates admit passage will be difficult in the Republican-dominated legislature.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes unveiled a proposal Thursday to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Grimes announced the filing of House Bill 166 surrounded by marijuana advocates and members of a task force she appointed last year to craft the bill.
“Kentuckians are begging for an alternative to opioids and prescriptions," Grimes said. "The natural remedy is what they are asking for."
Eric Crawford, who served on the task force, wants to replace his bag of prescription pills with marijuana. He admits using illegally after he was disabled in a car wreck.
“Using marijuana medicinally is calming, better, and it’s safer,” Crawford said.
The bill is co-sponsored by two House Democrats: Rep. John Sims of Flemingsburg and Rep. Al Gentry of Louisville. And with high profile Democrat Grimes on board, some marijuana advocates fear politics could cloud the issue in a legislature dominated by Republicans.
“It's not about who's bringing it forward," Grimes said. "It's about who we are fighting for."
But Gentry acknowledged the partisan fight will be bruising.
“I think there is some pressure coming from over there to not get involved with this, because they feel this is some political charade, which it is not,” Gentry said.
A companion bill is expected to be filed in the Senate. Democratic Sen. Reggie Thomas, who backs medical marijuana, hopes party politics does not derail the push.
“We should never play politics with individuals' health,” Thomas said. “There's something immoral about that to me.”
Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, the Republican chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she is open-minded, even to a Grimes-backed bill.
“I think she's doing what she feels needs to be done, and that's raising the dialogue, raising the issue,” she said.
Grimes is looking for GOP support despite a crackdown on marijuana by Republican U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She hopes to appeal to conservatives by framing marijuana as a states’ rights issue.
“If folks are really believing in states’ rights, as the Republican-led administration in Washington claims to be, the Republican-led administration here in Frankfort, at all levels from the governor to each chamber in our House and Senate, then they will see this as what it is, a states’ rights issue,” Grimes said.
Crawford said he is prepared to fight for as long as necessary.
“The momentum is changing," he said. "Attitudes are changing."
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