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Medical marijuana advocates reflect on bill's journey through Frankfort

Supporters of the bill said it is time for Kentucky to join the 37 other states that allow medical marijuana while those opposed said the cons outweigh the benefits.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 47 Thursday night, a bill legalizing medical marijuana, and it had its first reading in the House soon after.

The timing was crucial because there is now a 10-day veto period, and there are just two days left in the regular session at the end of the month when the bill needs to be read a second and third time, and then voted on in the House.

"Be set for final passage and become the 38th state for legalization on March the 30th, the very last day," Kristin Wilcox said.  "We feel very confident that we absolutely have the votes."

Wilcox and Julie Cantwell, founders of Kentucky Moms For Medical Cannabis, looked on from the gallery in Senate chambers as SB 47 passed 26 to 11.

Despite a favorable result for them, they still had to listen as opponents explained their "no" votes.

"This product is a violation of federal law.  It's a drug, not a medicine. In the end, it's about this: money," Sen. Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro, argued.

One of the staunchest opponents of marijuana in any form had been Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R), but to many people's surprise, he changed his mind.

"On behalf of those who suffer and can find some relief, I've come to this decision and people have asked me, why?  Because they know I'm a stubborn guy.  'Why did you change your mind?'  One word: compassion. I proudly vote aye," Thayer said.

"I mean, I think I busted out in tears," Cantwell said.  "I can't even put into words how nine years of doing this is finally coming together for patients."

Cantwell's son and Wilcox's daughter suffer from severe forms of epilepsy.

SB 47 will allow their kids to use medical marijuana because epilepsy is one of the qualifying medical conditions.

Qualifying conditions include:

  • Any type or form of cancer regardless of stage
  • Chronic, severe, intractable, or debilitating pain
  • Epilepsy or any other intractable seizure disorder
  • Multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, or spasticity
  • Chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting syndrome that has proven resistant to other conventional medical treatments
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The bill also leaves the door open for any other medical condition or disease which the Kentucky Center for Cannabis, established at the University of Kentucky, deems should qualify.

"The governor (through his executive order) put out 21 qualifying conditions and this bill has what, maybe six or seven, so it's gonna leave a lot of people out and we have to keep fighting for these people," Cantwell said.

Cantwell and Wilcox will have plenty of time to fight for more inclusion and lesser restrictions on medical marijuana, if it indeed passes and then Gov. Andy Beshear signs the bill into law.

Legalized distribution and sale of marijuana in Kentucky will have to wait until 2025.

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