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Medical marijuana resolution clears House hurdle
Sign displayed by medical marijuana supporters at 2016 Fancy Farm Picnic.

FRANKFORT--The Kentucky House wants the federal government to accelerate research on the "safety and effectiveness" of medical marijuana.

That is at least one message found in House Concurrent Resolution 34 sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, a licensed pharmacist who cautioned his House colleagues against adopting drug policy without thorough study. Doing so can have serious consequences, he said, citing birth defects caused by the drug thalidomide in the 1950s and1960s as one example.

"When we have not had the most careful study, we have ended up with unintended consequences," Bentley said.

The drug at the focus of HCR 34 is medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, which has been approved in some form in 29 states and the District of Columbia. At least one bill to establish a medical cannabis program in Kentucky has been filed this session.

Under HCR 34, the General Assembly would ask federal drug control agencies to "expedite research on the safety and effectiveness of the use of marijuana for certain health purposes." That research could help guide the General Assembly in developing "evidence-based and scientifically sound" medical marijuana policy, according to the resolution.

"How can we as a legislators make a responsible decision? The fact is we can't," without comprehensive research, said Bentley.

Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, who voted for the resolution, said he believes research on medical marijuana is needed but questioned the policies of the Federal Drug Administration, or FDA, one of the agencies called upon for guidance in HCR 34. He said it is the FDA that has "time and time again" approved opioid drugs which have left many Kentucky communities in crisis.

"I think we need a similar resolution that says the FDA needs to get these dangerous, lethal opiates in check," said Kay.

HCR 34 passed the House 73-5 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. If approved by both chambers and the governor, the resolution would be sent to the FDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse and Drug Enforcement Administration.

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