Pubdate: Wed, 20 Sep 2017
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2017 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: John Cheves


Amy Stalker says she had more control over her own health when she
lived in Colorado, where marijuana can be legally prescribed as
medicine. Stalker now lives in Kentucky, where medical use of
marijuana is banned.

A judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday against Gov. Matt Bevin and
Attorney General Andy Beshear that called for the legalization of
medical marijuana in Kentucky.

In his opinion, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate wrote that the
Kentucky Supreme Court clearly established in a 2000 decision
involving actor and hemp activist Woody Harrelson that the General
Assembly has the sole discretion under the state Constitution to
regulate the use of cannabis in the state. The courts do not have the
authority to intervene, Wingate wrote.

In that case, the Supreme Court found that the legislature held a
"valid public interest in controlling marijuana" and added that
"reliance by Harrelson aE& on great moral issues of the current times
is unpersuasive." Harrelson had planted four hemp seeds in Lee County,
then appealed his prosecution for being inapplicable under the state's
marijuana possession laws.

In their own lawsuit, filed in June, Dan Seum Jr. and Amy Stalker of
Jefferson County and Danny Belcher of Bath County said they suffer
from various physical and mental ailments that are alleviated by
marijuana use. They claimed the state's cannabis ban violates their
rights under the state Constitution to privacy and to be free of the
"absolute and arbitrary power" of the state over their "lives, liberty
and property."

The plaintiffs asked Wingate to decriminalize marijuana possession and
trafficking for themselves "insofar as they seek to use cannabis for
valid medicinal purposes."

Since 1996, 29 states and the District of Columbia have authorized the
medical use of marijuana within their borders. But Kentucky's General
Assembly has rejected several bills to legalize the drug for medicinal

Wingate told the plaintiffs that the judicial branch cannot help them
in this instance.

"The court recognizes plaintiffs' arguments that the cannabis plant
has potential uses for medicinal purposes," Wingate wrote. However,
the judge added, "The court finds that the (marijuana) laws reasonably
relate to the public health and well being of the commonwealth, and
the General Assembly acted within the scope of its constitutional
discretion in enacting the legislation."

"The plaintiffs are directed to turn their attention toward the
General Assembly of Kentucky," Wingate concluded.

Bevin and Beshear both had asked Wingate to dismiss the lawsuit. In
every state that has legalized medical marijuana so far, elected
lawmakers made that call, not the courts, lawyers for Bevin told Wingate.

"The Bevin administration applauds Judge Wingate's decision to follow
the law and dismiss this lawsuit. Any change to Kentucky law should go
through the legislative process," Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper

One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Candace Curtis of Louisville, said
they are weighing their options, including the possibility of an appeal.

"We respect the court's decision, but strongly disagree with it,"
Curtis said.

"We are not asking the court to throw all the laws regarding marijuana
use out the window," she said. "Our clients have said all along that
they want the government to stop intruding into the relationship
between them and their physicians. The court also has the duty to
ensure that the government doesn't act arbitrarily toward patients who
need natural, safe, non-addictive medicine instead of addictive
opioids and other pharmaceuticals."
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