Pubdate: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2018 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Jack Brammer


FRANKFORT -- Kentucky lawmakers shelved Wednesday a controversial bill 
to legalize medical marijuana, but supporters of the measure pledged to 
continue their fight.

Some backers of House Bill 166 were in tears after the House Judiciary
Committee voted 14-4 to "pass over" the measure. That's a procedure to
put off voting on the bill until a later date.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg, said it's doubtful
the proposal will be revisited in this year's legislative session but
"anything is possible."

Eric Crawford, a quadriplegic from Maysville who supports medical
marijuana to ease his pain from glaucoma and a 1994 accident, said
after the vote that he is more optimistic than ever that Kentucky
eventually will join the 29 other states and District of Columbia that
allow the use of marijuana to treat certain illnesses.

"I will be here next year during the session to get medical marijuana
legal," Crawford said.

Virginia and Tennessee are considering similar proposals this year.

The Kentucky bill would require a doctor to recommend medical
marijuana before a patient could get it. It would be distributed
through a state-regulated dispensary.

A city or a county would have a local-option vote to allow medical
marijuana. If the local government didn't act within two years,
residents could petition for a vote, similar to a wet-dry vote.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican who made the motion to pass
over the bill, said there's still a chance the bill could be
considered again this year if some changes are made to it.

Nemes said he believes medical marijuana can help people but he does
not like several provisions in the bill, especially one that would
allow each medical marijuana patient to possess up to 12 mature
cannabis plants. "That seems excessive," he said.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who formed a special panel
last year headed by Sims to work on medical marijuana legislation,
said she hopes Nemes is serious about reaching a compromise.

"I truly hope this is not a tactic to stall or kill the bill," Grimes
said in a statement. "I'm counting on Rep. Nemes to keep his word,
craft a meaningful compromise, and work to get House Bill 166 passed
this session. Kentuckians overwhelmingly support medical cannabis.
They are tired of waiting and will remember inaction at the ballot box
in November."

The House committee held three hearings this week to hear from
supporters and opponents of the bill.

State Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat who supports the bill,
predicted Kentucky will be the last state to legalize medical marijuana.
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