Ky. lawmakers discuss legalizing medical marijuana

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - If legalized, Senate Bill 43, also known as the Cannabis Compassion Act, would allow patients in Kentucky to qualify to use medicinal marijuana through the health department.

Right now, recreational and medical use of marijuana is illegal in Kentucky.

Eric Byrd says he decided to leave Kentucky for Colorado several months ago so he could treat his son's illness with marijuana.

Byrd and dozens of others rallied in the state capitol building Thursday morning to ask legislators to consider passing Senate Bill 43.

"This is the choice we have in Kentucky: to leave our families, churches, careers, to leave a life we've known for years. I chose to do that, other families here will do that if you don't pass a law to allow medicinal cannabis," said Byrd.

Other parents say they will have to leave the state too if marijuana isn't legalized because legal medication in Kentucky seems to do more harm than good.

"Blindness, loss of vision, peripheral vision, drowsiness," described Mary Gross who says her daughter’s medication comes with severe side effects.

Others who don't want to move, such as Eric Crawford, say they have a moral dilemma.

He says he's using marijuana to treat his glaucoma and others are risking jail to give it to him.

"I don't want to be a criminal but I don't want to leave the state. I don't know what else to do," he said.

The bill has seen several revisions since it was introduced a few years ago, it's never been voted on.

The bill sets guidelines for how marijuana would be controlled but legislators would decide how strictly it would be regulated.

Not every representative is on board though and there were loud disagreements as emotions ran high.

"I could fill this committee room with first responders, law enforcement officials who say there are dead children because of marijuana," said Representative Robert Benvenuti as people in the room shouted back “do it then!”

Representative Tim Moore says he’s also concerned that the bill allows for a tax on medical marijuana.

While the debate is set to continue into the year, both sides recognize more families will leave if nothing changes.

"We are currently treating 300 children in Colorado. Ten of which shamefully have moved from Kentucky," said medical marijuana advocate Josh Stanley.

The supporters of medical marijuana are waiting to see where committees will send the bill and if it will get a hearing this year.

Representative Moore says the details in the bill will most likely determine if it ultimately passes.

Washington D.C. and 21 states have already passed similar laws.

Kentucky Representatives clearly said Thursday they won't consider legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

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