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Medical marijuana, banning of gray machines passes Senate committee

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Two high profile bills were approved by the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee on Tuesday, one to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky, the other to ban gray machines.

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 47, which has more than a dozen co-sponsors and marks the first time that a medical marijuana bill has cleared a Senate committee, although it has passed the House on more than one occasion.

"I never intended to take a look at the issue of medical marijuana," he testified, "but once I got into it and started reviewing it, the more I researched it, the more I was on board with the issue."

West said his 122-page bill is complex but highlighted some of its provisions during his remarks. They include:

--Qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana are any type of cancer; chronic, severe, debilitating pain; epilepsy or any other seizure disorder; multiple sclerosis; muscle spasms; chronic nausea or vomiting; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; or any other condition that the Kentucky Center for Cannabis finds appropriate.

--Potential users must apply for a card and be approved.

--The Cabinet for Health and Family Services would oversee the program and come up with regulations for implementation.

--Those under 18 who are approved for use would have to have their product purchased by a caregiver.

The implementation of the bill would not take place until 2025, to give CHFS time to develop regulations and for lawmakers to make any needed changes during the 2024 legislation session.

Michael Johnson with the Family Foundation spoke against the measure. He told the panel, "The reality is there is insufficient scientific evidence that marijuana is an effective pain-relieving agent, or that it is safe. The Family Foundation says more research is needed into the potential medicinal properties of marijuana, and is advocating for the FDA to perform timely research."

The bill was approved 8-3, and now heads to the Senate floor.

After the vote, Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, who has sponsored similar bills in the House, said West's bill is very close to the ones that have cleared the House in the past.

When asked about its chances with just five days left in the legislative session, Nemes stated, "It's going to pass. If the Senate passes it, the House has already shown support. If the Senate gets it to the House with three days left, we'll get the job done."

In other action, the committee also approved House Bill 594 on an 8-2 vote, which would ban gray machines, which resemble slot machines, in Kentucky. Both measures now head to the Senate floor.

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