State senator pre-files medical marijuana bill

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Right now, there are 17 states that have legalized medical marijuana, along with the District of Columbia.

Next year, one legislator wants to see Kentucky added to the list.

Because this is such a controversial topic, it was difficult for WYMT to find a doctor willing to talk about it.

Sen. Perry Clark, a democrat from Louisville, pre-filed the bill to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Kentucky. It has received a lot of feedback.

“It's all about, basically, the de facto legalization of marijuana,” said Ed Shemelya, of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, HIDTA, Eastern Region Marijuana Coordinator.

That is one argument given by those against allowing people to use pot as medicine.

“I don't believe marijuana has any medical purposes whatsoever,” said Dan Smoot of Operation Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education, UNITE.

The bill has been pre-filed for the 2013 legislative session.

Drug and law enforcement officials said they do not think it is a good idea, first and foremost because it violates federal law. They said they look to what it has done in other areas where it has been legalized and did not see good things happening in those places.

“They are very concise as to what a doctor can recommend and they have been violated and abused in all 17 jurisdictions,” said Shemelya.
“The largest percentage of card holders in those 17 jurisdictions are 18 to 31-year-olds.”

Shemelya said that was an indicator because most people those age do not have serious medical conditions that are used as the justification for the legalization of the drug. In states, such as

Shemelya said they fear, no matter how many regulations are enforced, the marijuana will end up in the wrong hands.

“Marijuana has long been proved a gateway drug and it is the drug that most kids first experiment with,” said Smoot.

As a 30-year-veteran of the Kentucky State Police, Shemelya said he believed the costs outweighed the benefits in thinking about future generations.

“We will see teen usage, 12 to 17 year olds, increase six to eight points like we have seen in the other 17 states in this country,” Shemelya said.

Though marijuana is illegal in the state, doctors who have prescribed pills derived from the plant, or synthetics to some patients said they have seen results.

“For cancer patients, who are affected because of loss of appetite, this was very effective in terms of increasing their appetite, getting them to eat again,” said Dr. Wayne Tuckson, a surgeon from Louisville.
“Which form is better, smoking it versus taking the pills? Clearly there are some potential increased risks for abuse with the smoking and the pill is far more convenient and easier to control.”

Tuckson said as a colorectal surgeon he dealt with a lot of cancer patients.

One other medical doctor from Ashland said he was completely against any form of marijuana, derived pills or pharmaceuticals and doubted their medicinal abilities.

In this region, some said it would just add to a problem.

“With all the pill mills that have popped up in Kentucky, I am afraid these medical marijuana dispensaries we could end up in the same boat we are now,” Smoot said.

WYMT tried to get in touch with Sen. Clark for comment, but he did not return our call.

The bill will be called the Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act.

For more information or to read a copy of the bill, just log on to http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/13rs/sb11.html.

For a list of states who have legalized the drug, visit http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881


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