Medical cannabis bills filed in House and Senate
By Christy Howell-Hoots
The Ledger Independent-via Kentucky Press News Service
FRANKFORT -- After years of lobbying to have the use of medical marijuana legalized in Kentucky, a Mason County couple may see their fight come to a happy ending.
On Thursday, State Rep. John Sims Jr. filed a bill in the House of Representatives calling for the legalization of medical marijuana use when deemed necessary by a physician.
The bill, House Bill 411, states, "Create a new section of KRS Chapter 311 to allow physicians to recommend use of cannabis; hold physicians harmless for making the recommendation."
Sims said he chose to file the bill because of studies showing medical marijuana can help in certain situations.
"There are studies showing it helps without forcing someone to take pills every day," he said. "This bill would allow for physicians to prescribe it to patients as an option."
Eric and Michelle Crawford were in Frankfort on Thursday to witness the filing of the bill they have been pushing for years.
They have traveled across the state to speak at town hall meetings on the subject; and they try to get to Frankfort when the General Assembly is in session at least once a week, if Eric's health permits.
The Crawfords' fight started because of Eric's health.
In 2014, the couple aligned themselves with Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana to have medical marijuana legalized in Kentucky. Their efforts to date have resulted in the Cannabis Compassion Bill, being sent to the Licensing and Occupations committee. In the 2016 General Assembly session, Senate Bill 263 was introduced on the last day of the session, with no action taken.
Eric is a quadriplegic -- his spine was injured in a 1994 car accident when he was 22 years old. He and Michelle met when he was in Cardinal Hill for rehabilitation. Since then, they have been inseparable, with Michelle devoting her life to Eric as his mate, caregiver and champion of his needs.
The couple kept their lives as private as possible, until September 2013, when a set of extenuating circumstances put their lives into the court system. It was then they decided to go public and fight for Eric's right to have relief from his health problems through medical marijuana.
In January 2014, Eric was taking 16 prescriptions for a wide variety of ailments: pain, muscle spasms, anxiety, optical uveitis, antibiotics to stave off urinary tract infections, auto-immune disorder, acid reflux and eye drops for glaucoma, just to name a few.
Since they started their campaign, they have educated themselves on the benefits of medical cannabis. Eric can tell you people are born with what are called CBD1 (nervous system) and CBD2 (organs) receptors, which are stimulated by the right type of cannabis. According to Eric, there are two strains of medical marijuana, Indica and Sativa, one helps a person sleep, the other helps them stay awake.
A Cannabis Compassion bill, SB 57, was also introduced in the Senate by Perry Clark on Thursday. The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Steve West.
The bill states, "Create various new sections of KRS Chapter 218A to establish a comprehensive system for medical cannabis, including provisions for medical verification of need; persons allowed to cultivate, use, and possess the drug; organizations allowed to assist in providing the drug; regulation by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control; interaction on the part of state and local governments, including law enforcement, with persons and entities coming within the purview of the Act; and establishment of required reporting and review procedures; rename the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control the Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control; amend various KRS sections to conform; provide that the Act may be cited as the Cannabis Compassion Act."
Michelle and Eric said they are thankful for the support of their representative and senator for bringing the bills to the floor.
"We are so grateful and thankful for Rep. Sims for filing the bill in the House and to Sen. West for cosponsoring the bill in the Senate. We have a Democrat in the House and a Republican in the Senate working on the same issue. It's a bipartisan issue and we have good leadership who realize that," Michelle said.
Michelle said she does not believe the bills will be heard this year, but having them filed has made a big difference.
"I don't know that the bills will be heard this year, but I'm thankful that we have leaders who are willing to work on this issue," Michelle said.
"We're getting closer all the time," Eric said.