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'This is not about getting high, we need this': Advocacy groups push for Kentucky lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in 2023

Advocates covered the walls of the tunnel connecting the State Capitol and Annex buildings with photos of those affected by chronic conditions.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Advocates for medical marijuana were hard at work at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort Wednesday morning.

In their latest push for lawmakers to listen, with the next legislative session less than a week away, advocacy groups like Kentucky Moms for Medical Cannabis and Kentucky Norml covered the walls of the tunnel connecting the State Capitol and Annex buildings with hundreds of photos.

Advocates hope Kentucky lawmakers getting an up-close look at faces and people's stories will turn the tide in 2023 to get medical marijuana legalized within the state.

Kentucky Moms for Medical Cannabis co-founders Kristin Wilcox and Julie Cantwell say the goal is to recognize folks with chronic conditions -- including PTSD, epilepsy and cancer -- whose lives have been saved by medical marijuana, and to memorialize those who they believe medical marijuana could have helped if it were legal.

"They get to see that they're not alone," Wilcox said. "We have several advocates in here who died fighting for this, so we fight for them too."

Credit: Isaiah Kim-Martinez, WHAS11 News

Wilcox shared her own experience with her daughter Shelby, who just turned 17 years old on Christmas Eve.

"Shelby has Dravet Syndrome, it's a rare and deadly form of medication-resistant epilepsy," Wilcox said. "By the time she was three years old, she had been life flighted 26 times."

Wilcox says FDA-approved Epidiolex, which contains cannabis oil, has helped greatly.

Cantwell, from Hardin County, said her son Preston also has drug-resistant epilepsy, and he's been using medical marijuana from out of state for three years.

"He hasn't had a seizure since he started using it, and he had had seizures sometimes upwards of 200 times a day," she said.

"This is not about getting high, we need this," Wilcox told Kentucky state representative David Meade (R), who was walking through the halls Wednesday.

Not long after, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) stopped by to be the first of many to sign a vow to support the effort to get medical marijuana legalized.

This all comes as Governor Andy Beshear's executive order is set to take effect in the new year. It allows Kentuckians to possess and use medical marijuana purchased legally from other states, and then brought into the Commonwealth.

Advocacy groups believe 2023 is the year where they see long-term change.

Gov. Beshear gave an update on his executive order Wednesday, saying the state has already started to give out palm cards to law enforcement -- which will let officers know exactly what qualifies travelers to have medical marijuana in their possession and not to arrest them.

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