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Medical marijuana bill introduced in Kentucky Legislature

A medical marijuana bill has been introduced in the Kentucky Legislature. (WCHS/WVAH)

A bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana, including a Republican state senator who said he "smoked a joint" when he was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago.

Republican Sen. Dan Seum said he was given a bottle of Oxycontin seven years ago when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He said he threw the bottle away when he got home and smoked marijuana. He said the effects helped him not to miss a day of the legislative session that year.

A medical marijuana bill is now on its journey through the Kentucky Legislature. House Bill 136 would allow for doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients for medical purposes under heavy regulation from the state and medical licensing board. The bill would also let low-income people grow marijuana at home. Local law enforcement would be notified.

It's something Eric Crawford of Maysville has been trying to get passed for six years. He said opioids don't ease the physical pain from an car crash years ago.

"I have uncontrollable glaucoma. I lost 90 percent in right eye and 20 percent in left eye. Doctors recommend I use medical cannabis along with eye drops to control my eye pressure and it does," Crawford said.

Representative Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, one of the sponsors, said there must be a doctor patient relationship to prescribe medical marijuana.

"The doctor has to inform the regulator, which is the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure that the doctor might be making this recommendation. When they do make the recommendation, they have to inform the regulators and law enforcement just like they prescribe opioids," Nemes said.

Gov. Matt Bevin has said he would sign a medical marijuana bill, but he points out it depends on what is in the bill and how it is written.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, Senate majority leader, said right now he is " a qualified no on medical marijuana, which means today I would vote against it."

Thayer said he would like to see more studies on the issue.

"I think we need to be very slow and measured in our approach. A lot of other states have rushed into this and it has caused a lot of problems," Thayer said.

For Crawford, though, it's a step he hopes is taken sooner rather than later.

"Medical cannabis being legal would mean I am not a criminal," Crawford said.

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