The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in limited ways. This is the furthest an effort to legalize any form of marijuana has ever gone.
Sixty-five lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, while 30 voted against it. It was the first time a medical marijuana bill passed a chamber of the General Assembly.
The House Judiciary Committee passed HB 136 last week, with a vote of 17 to 1. The bill has 51 cosponsors. It will head next to the Senate, which like the House is Republican-led.
Unlike some other states, the Kentucky bill would not permit smoking marijuana. Rather, patients could be allowed to consume it in pill or oil form.
Speaking to the House on Thursday, Rep. Jason Nemes, the main sponsor, of Louisville described it as “the tightest medical marijuana bill in the country.” He said much had been taken out of the original bill, for example smoking or public usage.
“If someone is in public, they must have their card and they must have the product in an inner package and an outer package,” he said. “If it’s out of the package, it’s unlawful, they’re breaking the rules.”
There are four medical conditions for which medical marijuana could be prescribed under the bill: chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and nausea or vomiting. Nemes said he wished the list were broader, but that it was a “good start.”
The bill would also require creation of a regulatory board to oversee conditions for prescribing medical marijuana, as well regulations for dispensaries across the state.
Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Opponents included Republican Stan Lee of Lexington, who said he was concerned opening the state to medical marijuana would lead to full legalization.
“This is a balancing test. Is the good going to outweigh the harm?” he said.