Sen. Rand Paul co-sponsors medical marijuana bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The push to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky has picked up a major supporter.

The Kentucky Nurses Association has come out in support of the idea, calling it an issue of patients’ rights.

Twenty-two years ago, a car wreck injured Eric Crawford's spinal cord, leaving him partially paralyzed.

He says he began smoking marijuana after experiencing bad side effects from conventional drugs.

“I don't have to take pain pills anymore, and I take very little muscle relaxer. So, yes, it's helping me,” said Crawford, who is from Maysville, Ky.

Stories like Crawford's are why the Kentucky Nurses Association is now endorsing medical marijuana.

“I hope that folks are going to see that when registered nurses say this is an important access to care issue, that folks are going to look at it as the medical and patient care issue that it is and not as a social issue,” said Maureen Keenan, executive director of the KNA.

Supporters of medical marijuana made their case to lawmakers Friday during a special hearing of the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations.

“It's not about having a party. It's not about having fun. It's about quality of life,” said Jaime Montalvo of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana.

But others, such as the Kentucky Medical Association and law enforcement agencies, are urging caution.

“This is a gateway drug that leads our children and young adults down the road to illicit drug use and addiction,” warned Mickey Hatmaker, president of the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association.

The Kentucky Medical Association says it wants to see more research.

“KMA cannot support legislation intended to involve physicians in the area of medicinal marijuana outside of scientific, clinical trials,” said Corey Meadows of the KMA.

But the chairman of the committee says it is possible that a limited bill, perhaps one allowing dying patients to use marijuana, could get through the 2017 session.

“I see the dialogue changing a bit, and I think a narrowly-crafted bill might have some success,” said Sen. John Schickel (R-Union.)

Crawford says it is evidence that minds are slowly changing.

“Since the Kentucky Nurses Association has come out, that's a big step for us,” he said.

While supporters of medical marijuana say they're cautiously optimistic, they also know, at the Capitol, that momentum could quickly go up in smoke.

Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.