Medical Marijuana: Lawmakers split as potential patients keep hope for treatment

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Medical marijuana legalization is something many patients are clamoring for in Kentucky, but is there a political will to make it happen?

Some swear it takes away their pain from cancer, relieves nausea and anxiety, and that it takes the place of strong painkillers.

So why not make it legal? Kentucky is in the minority. 33 other states have passed medical marijuana into law, but many in law enforcement, drug treatment, and the state legislature remain opposed. They say marijuana use leads to drugs like heroin and opioids. They want more studies done on who benefits from medical marijuana and how it would be controlled.

WKYT talked two lawmakers who have different opinions on medical marijuana and a Kentucky family that says it's their last option for a more normal life.

Now in their early 30s and parents of a daughter, Taylor Everett, and his wife Cassie, say their life is dominated by epilepsy and seizures that come with no warning.

"We met when we were 19, in college. That was when she was barely on any medicine," Taylor Everett says. "I didn't even know she had seizures."

Cassie's medical episodes are so strong, she collapses with no memory of what happened.

"I bite my tongue usually, and I'm very disoriented." Cassie explains.

During our visit, Cassie talks slowly, struggling a bit like she's in a fog.

"I've seen my wife deteriorate for 11 years on drugs and seizures to where her memory is shot. To where she takes more and more pills to control things," Taylor says.

On a good day, she takes 12 pills...14 on a bad day.

"Filling up my medicine takes like a half hour because I go through and make sure, "Is this right?'"

The Everetts say she can't drive or hold down a full-time teaching job because of all the pills and the seizures that still happen.

"We've done surgery. We've tried all the pills," Taylor says. "She's still having seizures."

The couple says they've never used marijuana but believe it would help Cassie get off some, maybe most of the pills she takes. They read the posts on Facebook from epilepsy support groups.

"When you see the thousands of people who are taking medical marijuana and say, 'Oh, my daughter went from five seizures a day to none,' that's our biggest hope," Taylor says.

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R - Taylor Mill, says she is familiar with the Everetts' struggles.

"I remember having a conversation with that family, and my heart does go out to them," Moser said.

Moser chairs the Health and Family Services Committee, has many years of experience in nursing and founded the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Advisory office. Despite the calls from some families, she says she wants to be more deliberate before opening the door to medical marijuana.

"I just want to slow down a little bit, make sure we're doing things right," Moser said. "We have medications, and there are very strict guidelines in terms of what the uses are, and we just don't have that with medical marijuana right now."

Research has been limited in the U.S. because the DEA considers marijuana a Schedule I drug like heroin, LSD and ecstasy. This means they have no currently accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse.

"They've never tried marijuana so they don't know if it would work," Rep. Moser says of the Everetts. "So we pass a bill that opens it wide open, and not even know what it really does yet, and so that is my concern."

Rep. Jason Nemes, R - Louisville, is one of four lawmakers sponsoring a bill which would legalize medical marijuana, and he disagrees with his Republican colleague on the timing for allowing it in Kentucky.

"I know it can help some people. Let their doctors decide." Nemes said. "If it needs to be anywhere in the United States, it needs to be here in the Bluegrass. Because having the option for doctors to prescribe or recommend medical marijuana to their patients helps us with perhaps the worst problem in Kentucky, and that's opioid overdose."

As the battle over legalization continues among lawmakers, Cassie Everett says she isn't considering moving to a state where it is legalized.

"People have asked me, why don't you move, but my family is here, and they help so much. Makes me realize what a burden it is on my entire family," Cassie says.

It's hard to know if the medical marijuana bill has any chance in the 2019 Regular Session.

While there is opposition among Senate leadership, Republican Senator Dan Seum of Louisville admitted he smoked a joint instead of taking OxyContin during a cancer battle years ago. Seum is also one of the supporters of legalized medical marijuana, but he also filed a bill which would legalize recreational marijuana as well.

Below is the bill currently being proposed in the Kentucky legislature to legalize marijuana.

HB136 by on Scribd



 
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