Pubdate: Wed, 21 Jun 2017
Source: Courier-Journal, The (Louisville, KY)
Copyright: 2017 The Courier-Journal
Author: Deborah Yetter


FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Saying its time has come, state Sen. Morgan McGarvey
on Wednesday called on the legislature to consider legalizing medical
marijuana to relieve pain and suffering of terminally ill people.

"It's 2017," McGarvey, a Louisville Democrat, told members of the
joint House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee. "I think it's time we
had a conversation about medical marijuana without

Members of the committee took no action on legislation McGarvey is
proposing for the 2018 legislative session but no one spoke against
the proposal and some committee members spoke in favor of the measure
that went nowhere in the past two legislative sessions.

"This is an issue that's got to be dealt with some way," said Sen. Tom
Buford, a Nicholasville Republican.

"I am totally on board with this," said Sen. Reginald Thomas, a
Lexington Democrat whose wife died from cancer in 2015. "I am
personally and professionally aware of the need for this."

Several supporters of medical marijuana who attended the hearing said
they don't think McGarvey's bill goes far enough, that it should allow
broader medical use than just for those who are terminally ill.

Among them was Dr. Don Stacy, a Louisville cancer doctor who said he
has seen dramatic improvements in patients who acknowledge using
marijuana "behind closed doors" to ease pain and nausea from
treatments including chemotherapy and radiation.

"The real benefit would be if we had it available for people
undergoing treatment," he said.

And Eric Crawford of Maysville, who is partially paralyzed from a car
accident and has other health problems including glaucoma, said
marijuana is the only substance that eases his pain and slows the eye
disease that could lead to blindness.

"I haven't taken a pain pill in two years," he said.

And the proposal comes as the state is facing a lawsuit by three
Kentuckians suing to overturn Kentucky's ban on medical marijuana,
which they argue they need for health problems including back pain,
mental illness and other conditions.

One of the three plaintiffs, Amy Stalker, was at Wednesday's hearing
where she held up a sign that asked, "What about me?" McGarvey's
proposal would not allow her to use marijuana to ease debilitating
effects of irritable bowel syndrome and bi-polar disorder --
conditions other prescribed medications have failed to treat, she said.

"It's too narrow," she said of McGarvey's bill.

But McGarvey said his proposal is a measured way to introduce a
much-needed relief for people in the most severe pain, many of whom
already receive powerful narcotic painkillers such as morphine.

McGarvey told the committee at least 26 states already allow use of
marijuana for medical purposes, such as easing pain or nausea in
cancer patients, and said he sees no reason Kentucky should wait any

"If you're last, you're last and Kentucky shouldn't be the last state
to do this," he said.

The organization, a non-partisan research group, reports on
its website that 29 states and the District of Columbia permit some
use of medical marijuana.

Morgan's proposal limits medical marijuana to those with a
life-threatening illness who are receiving "end-of-life care." He said
his bill also would call for a task force to come up with
recommendations on exactly how to implement the law but said the
marijuana must be prescribed by a medical professional.

And he vehemently denied it's a "back door" to allowing broad,
recreational use of marijuana, as some states including Colorado have

"That's an argument made out of fear and not out of fact," he said.
"It's not a back door to anything."

Rep. Danny Bentley, a Russell Republican and a pharmacist, asked how
marijuana doses could be standardized and dispensed when federal law
still lists marijuana as an illegal drug.

McGarvey said he understands such concerns but argued that more than
half the states have found a way to dispense marijuana for medical

"We can talk about all the reasons we can't do this," he said. "I can
point to the 26 other states that have."

After the hearing, McGarvey, who sponsored similar, unsuccessful
measures in the last two sessions of the General Assembly, said be
believes public attitudes are beginning to shift in favor of allowing
use of medical marijuana in some circumstances. And he said he doesn't
believe support breaks down on partisan lines.

"Everyone has someone in their life who has suffered from cancer or a
debilitating illness," he said. "What we're hearing from Democrats and
Republicans is that we need to provide some relief."
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