KY Senator pushes for medical marijuana legalization

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- State Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville predicts medical marijuana will be legal in Kentucky within the next year.

The Louisville Republican has co-sponsored a bill that he believes addresses most of the past concerns about medical marijuana.

“We are very serious about this being a medical cannabis bill. This is not recreation,” said Nemes during a hearing of the Interim Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations.

Nemes tried to assure fellow lawmakers that his bill contains tight restrictions on medical marijuana, regulating its use, growth and sale. He said his bill would create a new Department of Cannabis Administration to regulate medical marijuana.

The proposed regulations include:

  • Requiring users to obtain a permit and carry a card
  • Prescriptions only by physicians who have registered with the state
  • Processors and distributors must be licensed
  • No smoking in public or on public property
  • No marketing that would appeal to children

The bill would also include an opt-out provision allowing communities to prohibit marijuana dispensaries and distributors, though residents would still be allowed to use cannabis in their homes.

Nemes said growing marijuana at home would be allowed on a limited basis because it can be expensive to purchase.

“Some folks just can't afford it, and if doctors say that this will help them, we think they should be able to access that kind of medication,” said Nemes. 

Some lawmakers appeared ready to jump on board.

Sen. Dan Seum is a cancer survivor who has admitted to using marijuana to relieve nausea.

“If you get into nausea after cancer surgery, trust me, you will smoke a joint from here to that damn wall over there if it would take that damn nausea away from you. And I did just that,” said Seum.

Opposition to medical marijuana remains strong.

“It's not the panacea that folks say it is, and it's very difficult to regulate,” said Rep. Kim Moser, who is also director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer expressed concern that allowing home growth of marijuana would lead recreational use.

“Why the rush to do grow-your-own, smoke-your-own?  Because that, to me, seems like a very risky path to recreational marijuana,” said Thayer.

Nemes told WDRB News none of the bill’s sponsors support recreational marijuana. He said there will likely be some changes before the bill is filed.

Nemes said he already has the votes in the House, and is confident medical marijuana can also pass the Senate.

“Fundamentally, we're going to have, I believe, medical marijuana in Kentucky within the next year,” said Nemes. “I strongly believe that.”

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