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Decriminalization of marijuana for medical purposes is now being studied by panel of lawmakers. Sign at Fancy Farm 2014 Picnic

Lawmakers discuss pros and cons of medical marijuana

FRANKFORT - A state legislative committee met today to discuss liberalizing marijuana laws for medical purposes.

"We have been literally overwhelmed with correspondence and people wanting to testify before this committee today," said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, who chaired the meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations.

He said he asked that the subject of medical marijuana be placed on the agenda after several bills concerning marijuana were assigned to the Senate Standing Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations during the final weeks of the 2016 General Assembly.

"At that time I made a commitment to the people both supporting and opposed to the legislation that we would have extensive hearings during the interim to learn more," Schickel said. "It is really relevant legislation for our times. We have states all around us that are dealing with it also."

Sen. Perry B. Clark, D-Louisville, testified about last session's Senate Bill 263, which would have legalized medical cannabis.

"Where they've passed medical cannabis laws none of the cataclysmic predictions have materialized in any form," he said.

Clark was followed by testimony from Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, who introduced Senate Bill 304 last session. SB 304 sought to legalize medical marijuana for palliative or hospice care.

"If you have eight months to live and something makes you comfortable ... why wouldn't we allow it?" he said. "We prescribe morphine and fentanyl to these same patients - literally drugs that are killing people in Kentucky."

Dr. Gregory Barnes of the University of Louisville testified about his research into the effectiveness of cannabidiol, known as CBD, in epilepsy.

"It might not only represent a compound that is anti-seizure in character but also a compound that improves behaviors and cognition," said Barnes. "I think that is a very important point for the committee to understand."

Jaime Montalvo, founder of Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana, spoke about using cannabis to treat his multiple sclerosis.

"We believe conservatively that this can help over 100,000 Kentucky patients," he said. "It would create economic growth, and it would potentially get rid of the black market we have today."

Dr. Danesh Mazloomdoost, a Lexington pain management specialist, cautioned legislators about the dangers of hastily passing medical marijuana legislation.

"We can sensationalize the failures of conventional medicines as a rationale for legalization," he said, adding marijuana isn't a fix for these failures.

He said while some, like Montalvo, might find relief from marijuana their stories are not representative of the average medical marijuana recipient.

Kentucky Narcotic Officers' Association (KNOA) President Micky Hatmaker said 25 other states have expanded access to cannabis for medical purposes either by ballot referendum or legislative intent.

"That is contrary to the process by which all other drugs have been tested and approved," he said. "All drugs intended for human consumption are required to have been tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration."

Hatmaker said the concept of cannabis as medicine began in California in 1996 when they allowed access to cannabis, either smoked or ingested, to treat terminally ill patients and those who suffered from debilitating diseases.

"In spite of the best intentions of these 25 states, raw marijuana either smoked or ingested is not medicine and has never been passed through the rigorous DA approval process to ensure the health and safety of patients," he said. "The KNOA believes that medications, including marijuana-based drugs, should go through the scientific process, and should be accessed through legitimate physicians."


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