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By a vote of 16-1-1, the House Judiciary Committee has voted along bipartisan lines to approve a measure that would make Kentucky the 34th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana.

HB 136, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge of Fort Wright and Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville, is aimed at helping Kentuckians find relief from the pain often associated with chronic illnesses.

“This consensus legislation was crafted based on the input of numerous stakeholders, and will improve the quality of life of our fellow citizens suffering from chronic pain and life-altering illnesses, for which no traditional medicine has been effective,” St. Onge said.

The measure is the product of numerous compromises and discussions with a broad range of stakeholders. Notably, the bill no longer allows consumption of medicinal marijuana by smoking. It also prohibits the “home grow” element formerly in the legislation, which allowed up to six plants to be cultivated by patients themselves, and establishes a list of qualified medical conditions to provide guidelines for a recommendation.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five people who try heroin started with prescription opioids. Other studies have shown that states with legalized medicinal marijuana see prescription painkiller overdose rates at 25 percent lower than states who do not have not legalized medical marijuana.

Neither Nemes nor St. Onge support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.

“A strong majority of Kentuckians support medical marijuana, in addition to a strong majority of House members,” Rep. Nemes said. “Now is the time for us to provide our people with a remedy for ailments that numerous studies prove to be effective. It’s time for us to let the doctor decide.”

Under the terms of the legislation, the use of medical marijuana would be regulated by the Public Protection Cabinet.

The bill now advances to the full House of Representatives for consideration. It has 43 cosponsors, including members from both parties.

Editor, The Manchester Enterprise