Support for medical marijuana nearly unanimous, report says

Published 1:59 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2022

STEVE BITTENBENDER

The Center Square

A report on medical marijuana published by a task force convened by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear shows overwhelming support for its legalization in the state.

The Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee received more than 3,500 comments from the public through Aug. 12, and 98.6% supported legalization, according to a summary the committee published on Friday.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey, who co-chaired the panel with Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Ray Perry, said everyone who spoke at public hearings the committee held also spoke in support.

“We heard from many Kentuckians that use cannabis for its beneficial medical effects but can only do so by breaking the law as it now exists,” Harvey said. “Many of these Kentuckians must leave the commonwealth to legally obtain medical cannabis in one of the 38 states where it is legal.”

Beshear announced he would establish the panel in April after a bill to legalize medical marijuana passed the state House but did not move in the Senate.

Late last month, Beshear said he would take action based on the committee’s findings.

Kentucky is one of 10 states that allows individuals to use low THC, high cannabidiol products, also known as CBD. However, Perry said the board heard from people looking for other solutions to battle the opioid epidemic.

“The people we heard from are looking for pain relief that allows them to live useful, productive lives,” Perry said. “We heard about family trauma stemming from unresolved pain and addictive painkillers. We also heard the frustration that politics deprives them of legal access to an efficacious treatment available to an overwhelming majority of Americans.”

While the General Assembly did not pass a bill earlier this year, it did agree to establish a research center at the University of Kentucky to study the issue. Lawmakers included $2 million in funding for that program over the next two years.

According to a release last month from the school, Dr. Shanna Babalonis will serve as the director of the Cannabis Center, which will look to inform lawmakers and the public of its findings. That includes determining effective dosages and the best way cannabis can be administered.

“The new center will allow us to expand our clinical research, particularly focusing on medical conditions that may be helped by medical cannabis,” Babalonis said.