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Medical Marijuana Eligibility Would Expand in Kentucky Under a New GOP Bill
Kentucky Ag Connection - 03/05/2024

The Republican sponsor of a bill to legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky last year has filed a new bill to expand the number of eligible medical conditions for patients when the program goes into effect in 2025. State Sen. Stephen West of Paris filed Senate Bill 337 last week to increase the eligible conditions from six to 21, closely resembling the recommendations of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and two committees who studied the issue.

West said he has worked on the bill since the 2023 session in collaboration with Sam Flynn, the executive director of the new Kentucky Medical Cannabis Program under the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

“They were working in conjunction with us,” West said. “We had multiple meetings during the interim. It's with our blessing. I mean, it's kind of a joint effort.”

West’s bill is seen as a positive development among patient advocates and businesses looking to potentially invest in Kentucky’s new system, but still has to gain support among a GOP caucus that was divided on legalization last year.

Senate Bill 47 of West in the 2023 session created the legal framework for medical cannabis in the state, with patients only eligible if they have been diagnosed with cancer, severe pain, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis or muscle spasms, chronic nausea or post-traumatic stress disorder.

His new bill would add more than a dozen conditions to that list, including:

HIV and AIDS

ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease

Arthritis

Cachexia or wasting syndrome

Fibromyalgia

Glaucoma

Hepatitis C

Huntington’s disease

Irritable bowel syndrome, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Muscular dystrophy

Neuropathies

Parkinson’s disease

Sickle cell disease

Any terminal illness

These same conditions were recommended to be added to the law in January by the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Workgroup, which was created by Beshear to study the issue. The Board of Physicians and Advisors — a group of nine doctors and nurses created by SB 47 — also recommended adding all of the same conditions but Hepatitis C.

In a January press conference, Beshear said adding these medical conditions to the law would increase the number of eligible Kentuckians by 437,000. However, he noted that only the legislature had the authority to add them to the law, as a University of Kentucky medical group authorized to add conditions has indicated it will not do so.

While West said he agrees with adding nearly all of these conditions to the law, he noted there could be GOP legislators who supported the bill last year that object to some of them. In order to ensure the passage of SB 337, he said the bill would likely be amended once it reaches committee to remove some of them.

“To me, those (conditions) all seem reasonable,” West said. “But my view, my version of reasonable may be different than the other members.”

While SB 47 passed by a large margin in both chambers last year, the vote was much closer among members of the Republican supermajority. Legislation typically does not advance through a Kentucky General Assembly chamber unless it has support among a majority of the GOP caucus.





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