Lexington leaders urge state lawmakers to act on medical marijuana

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Lexington Urban County Council has passed a resolution urging state lawmakers to take action on medical marijuana.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the resolution during a special meeting called specifically to consider the issue. It followed a regular meeting last week in which half a dozen medical marijuana proponents - many of them veterans - urged councilmembers to show their support.

A group of supporters showed up again inside the council chamber on Tuesday.

"I am here to speak for the voices that cannot be heard. And I cannot tell you how many patients this will help. I myself am in chronic pain every day, all day long," said Charlie McCrady, a Vietnam Air Force combat veteran from Lexington who has traveled the state pushing for medical marijuana. "I self-medicated with marijuana for almost 40 years. If it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't be here today. I know at the time I was breaking the law, but I did that in order to survive."

Several other cities and counties across the state have already passed similar resolutions, supporters said. They hope those resolutions will put pressure on lawmakers to take action on medical marijuana before the session ends in April.

House Bill 166, a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, but has not been considered yet.

During the Council meeting last week, a number of councilmembers voiced their support for medical marijuana and were eager to pass a resolution supporting legislation that would legalize it. (Some council members proposed drafting and passing a resolution that night, to make sure they could approve it before the legislature would consider the bill.) On Tuesday, though, a revised version of the resolution emerged without reference to legislation.

The original resolution on Council's docket for Tuesday had language "encouraging the Kentucky General Assembly to pass House Bill 166." But the resolution Council passed took that out, instead "encouraging the Kentucky General Assembly to consider legalizing medical cannabis." Both versions did express support for medical marijuana by urging lawmakers to "provide for the care, comfort and relief of any Kentuckian who may benefit."

"We are interested in having the state address this issue," said Vice Mayor Steve Kay. "There's a bill pending. Whether that's the bill that comes forward or whatever it is, we would like to see the issue of medical marijuana addressed at the state level so that we can consider it at the local level."

Councilmember Amanda Bledsoe, who represents the 10th district, said in a tweet on Tuesday evening that she and other members of council have concerns about parts of the proposed medical marijuana legislation, clarifying that the council voted to support consideration of the general topic.

"To be clear, Lex Council voted to encourage consideration of topic of legalizing medical marijuana without reference to specific proposed legislation," she tweeted. "I am not the only one who has specifics (sic) concerns with elements in proposed legislation."

Prior to Tuesday's vote, Councilmember Bledsoe also acknowledged the difficulty of handling a state and federal issue at the local level.

"I have a hard time presuming to vote on issues that presume for my district how they feel about issues they've not elected me to address, to be honest," she said at the meeting. "And I think we have to be very careful about how we use this body to do so."

Bledsoe said she supported the resolution, though, because her father had terminal cancer and fought for eight years while in immense pain, she said.

Nick Risden, a central Kentucky dog trainer who has been outspoken about his health battles - and medical marijuana use - since being bitten by a tick last year, was emotional after Tuesday's meeting as he thanked city leaders for taking action.

"This isn't just guys saying, 'Hey, we want to smoke this stuff' anymore just to say it's medicine," Risden told reporters. "It's real medicine. Research it. Look at the real universities that have already studied this stuff."

Risden said he is not confident that lawmakers will pass medical marijuana legislation, but he is hopeful. He thanked Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes for her efforts, including chairing a task force over the winter to explore the issue. (Her co-chair, Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg, went on to sponsor HB 166.)

Secretary Grimes tweeted about Lexington's resolution on Tuesday, urging voters to call their legislators and ask them to vote to legalize medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana is already legal in 29 states, plus the District of Columbia.

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