Kentucky lawmakers shelved Wednesday a controversial bill to legalize medical marijuana, but supporters of the measure pledged to continue their fight.
Some backers of House Bill 166 were in tears after the House Judiciary Committee voted 14-4 to “pass over” the measure. That’s a procedure to put off voting on the bill until a later date.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg, said it’s doubtful the proposal will be revisited in this year’s legislative session but “anything is possible.
Eric Crawford, a quadriplegic from Maysville who supports medical marijuana to ease his pain from glaucoma and a 1994 accident, said after the vote that he is more optimistic than ever that Kentucky eventually will join the 29 other states and District of Columbia that allow the use of marijuana to treat certain illnesses.
“I will be here next year during the session to get medical marijuana legal,” Crawford said.
Virginia and Tennessee are considering similar proposals this year.
The Kentucky bill would require a doctor to recommend medical marijuana before a patient could get it. It would be distributed through a state-regulated dispensary.
A city or a county would have a local-option vote to allow medical marijuana. If the local government didn’t act within two years, residents could petition for a vote, similar to a wet-dry vote.
Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican who made the motion to pass over the bill, said there’s still a chance the bill could be considered again this year if some changes are made to it.
Nemes said he believes medical marijuana can help people but he does not like several provisions in the bill, especially one that would allow each medical marijuana patient to possess up to 12 mature cannabis plants. “That seems excessive,” he said.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who formed a special panel last year headed by Sims to work on medical marijuana legislation, said she hopes Nemes is serious about reaching a compromise.
“I truly hope this is not a tactic to stall or kill the bill,” Grimes said in a statement. “I’m counting on Rep. Nemes to keep his word, craft a meaningful compromise, and work to get House Bill 166 passed this session. Kentuckians overwhelmingly support medical cannabis. They are tired of waiting and will remember inaction at the ballot box in November.”
The House committee held three hearings this week to hear from supporters and opponents of the bill.
State Rep. Tom Burch, a Louisville Democrat who supports the bill, predicted Kentucky will be the last state to legalize medical marijuana.
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