Sponsors of House Bill 136 to legalize medical marijuana

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers has introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana.

The sponsors of House Bill 136, the Medicinal Cannabis Act, said their bill is much different than those that flamed out in the past, because it establishes a new, highly regulated medical marijuana industry.

Everyone involved, from growers and processors to dispensaries and users, would be licensed by the state. Legal marijuana use would be allowed only after a doctor’s recommendation.

“Kentuckians want the opportunity to help themselves when they are sick,"  said Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican. "We're going to trust the doctors to help their patients."

Nemes is confident the bill can easily pass the House if it comes up for a vote.

“The overwhelming majority of members of the House of Representatives support medical marijuana,” he said.

Republican Rep. Kim Moser is not one of those supporters.

“I don't see the real sense of urgency,” he said.

Moser, who is director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said marijuana should go through the same federal approval process as any other medicine.

“I don't know why this plant being treated differently than any other plant that becomes medicine,” she said.

But backers said the evidence is so convincing that 34 states and several countries have already legalized medical marijuana.

“The verdict is in, my friend, and medical marijuana is good for people,” Nemes said.

While supporters are optimistic about the bill's chances in the House, it may be a different story in the Senate.

Senate leaders have voiced opposition, but Sen. Dan Seum believes support is growing.

“I think it's coming," said Seum, a Louisville Republican. "I think it's time. I'm convinced there's more movement in the Senate than maybe what's up front."

As he has confessed previously, Seum admitted that he "smoked a joint" instead of using OxyContin when he was battling colon cancer seven years ago.

Seum has taken his support for marijuana a step further by filing a bill that would allow recreational use of the drug. But the sponsors of House Bill 136 said recreational marijuana is not their objective.

“This is not a step in the direction for recreational marijuana,” said Republican Rep. Mark Hart of Falmouth. “This bill is strictly and only to provide another resource for our doctors to treat our Kentucky citizens.”

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.