Although the question of whether to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky has not been given much consideration over the past several years, the issue, which is supported by Governor Matt Bevin, appears to be gaining some traction in the 2019 legislative process.
However, while bill would allow tens of thousands of patients to use marijuana for a variety of health conditions, the proposed program design might not be exactly what most patients were hoping for.
It was just last week that the House Judiciary Committee put its seal of approval on a bill (HB136) intended to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. The measure, which was pushed through in a vote of 16-to-1, would give patients dealing with conditions ranging from chronic pain to Multiple Sclerosis the ability to purchase and use certain forms of herb from a dispensary for therapeutic use.
The only catch is the bill is designed to get the most medicinal benefits out of the drug as possible without paving the way for abuse.
For starters, smoking medical marijuana would not be permitted under the law. Lawmakers believe that if the plant is going to be used as medicine than it should look that way. Only cannabis products like pills and oils would be allowed under the bill. And those products would be restricted to 70 percent THC.
So, even though someone with a pain condition could qualify for participation in the state’s medical marijuana program, their use would be tightly regulated. Any registered patient that continues to use flower, smokable forms, would still be subject to arrest and prosecution.
Of course, it goes without saying that the program would not allow home cultivation of any kind. All of the cannabis would be grown and distributed by state-licensed cannabis companies.
To complicate matters further, the program would not be workforce friendly. It would give employers the right to discriminate against patients. The lawmakers responsible for the measure say it is only fair.
“If an employer chooses to have a drug free work zone, that is their privilege to do so,” said Representative Diane St. Onge. “Now, if they have not indicated that in their policy, and someone is hired and they’re an employee, and then there’s an incident that happens, the employee has recourse, in the sense that this was not something they were aware of from the beginning.”
Kentucky’s medical marijuana program would be set up very similar to how states like New York and Minnesota started out in the beginning. The only difference is Kentucky’s would allow patients with chronic pain to gain access right out of the gate. Statistics have shown that pain conditions are the real money makers in the medical marijuana business. So that might be the only aspect of the program that actually saves it from utter failure. Still, limiting medical marijuana products to only pills and oils has historically jacked up the cost of patient participation, and these types of program are not covered under any kind of health insurance. It is conceivable that some of the projected 60,000 patients would spend thousands of dollars per month to have this medicine.
The bill is now set to go before the full House for a vote.
Governor Bevin has indicated that he would sign the bill if it crosses his desk.