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Senate Republicans showed bravery with marijuana vote

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

There are people in government who will never, ever be convinced of the benefits of medical marijuana. They will only ever see the plant as a gateway drug, one which can be addictive in its own right, and we respect their convictions.

But we also have to respect the convictions and testimony of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals across the state and the nation who cite the benefits of medical marijuana use in treating their conditions.

Those conditions can range from anxiety and depression to PTSD and any number of musculoskeletal issues. In addition to treatment for pain and anxiety disorders, the drug has long been recommended for taming the nausea associated with chemotherapy and stimulating the appetite in those suffering from any number of conditions that can rob them of the desire to eat.

It’s hardly a miracle cure. If anything, marijuana use treats symptoms, not underlying issues. But that doesn’t make it any different from any number of pharmaceutical compounds used for treating similar issues and conditions.

The big difference is that while pharmaceuticals are legal, marijuana – which some users report is more effective with fewer side effects – is not. At least not for now.

Sure, Governor Beshear has issued a blanket pardon to anyone with a qualifying condition who legally purchases cannabis in another state. But that doesn’t mean it’s legal. His measure simply grants a preemptive pardon to anyone found with medical marijuana, if they meet certain conditions. Those conditions include having a letter from an approved medical provider, and retaining the receipt to prove their marijuana products were legally purchased in a state that allows medical or recreational marijuana sales.

It also means that the use of this de facto decriminalized weed is mostly limited to those with the means to leave the state and travel somewhere that allows recreational sales – since medical sales (which are often exempt of the taxes collected on recreational sales) are generally limited to citizens of the state allowing those sales.

But thanks to a group of Senate Republicans, led by Senator Steve West, of Paris, that could all change.

Senate Bill 47 seeks to legalize and regulate medical cannabis prescriptions and sales in the state.

West, the bills lead sponsor, and his colleagues in the Senate voted 26 – 11 to pass that bill last week, leaving it to the House to vote the bill down or pass it on for the governor’s signature.

Supporters of the bill like West and Representative Jason Nemes, another strong supporter of medical marijuana within the Republican party, are upbeat about the chances of the measure passing the House, which has historically been more open to medical marijuana legalization than their Senate colleagues.

And while it passed the Senate with Republican support – the party has super majorities in both legislative branches – Republicans are far from unified in their support for the measure.In the past Republican leadership has refused to let medical marijuana bills come up for an open vote, even when introduced and supported by a majority of their own party.

While we respect those convictions, the minority can’t force their moral convictions on others. That’s not what a democracy is about. It’s about the majority and the numbers, and the numbers seem to indicate that a majority of Kentuckians support some form of legalized medical marijuana.

We know it hasn’t been easy for those within the party to even bring the bill to a vote, much less pass it, but they have. They’ve shown bravery in standing up to others within their party, and perseverance in continuing to push for the measure even as a vocal minority of colleagues attempted to stop it before it could be brought to vote.

They’ve chosen to listen to, and act in the interest of, their constituents who are telling them loudly and clearly they want this.

They’ve chosen to listen to veterans suffering from PTSD, housewives suffering from MS, and cancer patients struggling to tame the overwhelming nausea and effects of chemotherapy treatments.

They’ve chosen to listen to the people of Kentucky who are asking them for help with their medical conditions.

Now, we can only hope the House and Governor continue to do the same.



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