National drug expert warns Kentucky lawmakers not to legalize medical marijuana
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- A national drug policy expert has urged Kentucky lawmakers to slow down the push to legalize medical marijuana.
Legislators have held two hearings in recent weeks in which supporters advocated for passage of a medical marijuana bill. On Friday, the other side tried to snuff out the marijuana momentum.
“I think we need to slow down a little bit, because I do think this is something we're going to regret,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, director of the National Drug Policy Institute.
Sabet testified before the Interim Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations. He told lawmakers there is no evidence that smoking marijuana is good medicine.
“We think that science, not politics, should determine medicine,” he said.
According to Sabet, the science reveals some components of the marijuana plant could have benefits, but others could be dangerous.
“We don't smoke medicine first of all, obviously,” Sabet said. “We don’t ask you to smoke opium to get the effects of morphine.”
Sabet debunked some of what he called the “wild claims” made by marijuana advocates, including curing cancer.
“The evidence shows the nausea related to chemotherapy, there could be some relief, and we need to look at that," he said. "But when it comes to whole cancer, this is, I think, very problematic."
But Sen. Dan Seum, who admits to having used marijuana for his cancer symptoms, said legalization will help ensure a safer product.
“I just think that we would have access to clean products rather than getting it off the street,” Seum said.
Rep. Kim Moser, who is director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said lawmakers should consider the hard evidence.
“I believe that it's research and science and not a collection of anecdotes, ad hominems and emotion that we need to be considering in this very important issue,” Moser said.
Sabet said states might want to consider a limited program of allowing terminally ill patients to use marijuana. But he said that is much different than widespread commercialization, which could result in unintended negative consequences.
“We are not about criminalizing users or denying medicine that could be helpful for people, especially people with terminal illnesses,” he said. “What we want to talk about is making sure we keep in mind what the data are saying and what experience has shown.”
Advocates said they do not believe Sabet's testimony hurts their chances of passing a medical marijuana bill next year.
“Nothing new was presented," Ashly Taylor said. "The information, some of it, I think, was just old smokescreen type of behavior."
But clearly, some lawmakers who admit they are on the fence are looking for answers.
“Should a state legalize marijuana or not,” asked Sen. Dan Schickel, the co-chair of the committee.
“My position is unequivocally that we should not legalize marijuana,” Sabet replied.
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