State Rep. Tom Burch: Laws Outlawing Marijuana Were ‘Ill Advised’

A Democratic state legislator said he believes legalized medical marijuana in Kentucky is a matter of when, not if.

Still, Senate Republicans are concerned that people would use the drug for recreational purposes.

State Rep.Tom Burch said he remembers when the state outlawed marijuana—and he called it a mistake. 

“I was here when we criminalized the use of marijuana back in the ’70s,” said Burch, a Louisville Democrat. “It was a rush to, you know, get these criminals off the street, and all this kind of stuff that was going on.

“It was ill advised, but it was a good election year and everybody wanted to be against crime, so that’s why we passed it, so that a little bag of marijuana would get you five years.”

The legislature will take up the issue again next month when it will examine the effects of marijuana on post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.

Senate Republicans are concerned about people using the drug for recreational purposes. State Sen. Julie Denton, a  Louisville Republican, said members of her party who supported a successful bipartisan effort to legalize medicinal cannabis oil still remain opposed to marijuana.

“So that tells me that people are for helping with substances that are a little, in their mind, tainted, if we can create them and make them available in such a way that they are helpful, but they’re not going to be harmful to society,” Denton said.

The  Health and Welfare Committee will take up the issue again this fall with hopes of reviewing scientific studies on the drug.

A medical marijuana bill passed by the House Health and Welfare Committee earlier this year ultimately died on the chamber floor. It’s passage planted a larger seed in the General Assembly that committee chair Tom Burch says will eventually come to fruition.

So far, 22 states have legalized medical marijuana. A February Bluegrass poll said 52 percent of Kentuckians support the issue.

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