A bill that would create a way for people to receive marijuana for medical treatment has been filed in the state House of Representatives, and the bill’s sponsor said he thinks the measure could become law this year.

House Bill 136, which was filed by Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican, had 40 co-sponsors Friday, including members of both political parties.

“I’m filing it for this year, and we have a good chance of getting it passed,” Nemes said Thursday.

A medical marijuana bill was approved in a legislative committee during the 2019 session but was not called for a full vote.

“Last year, we had 53 co-sponsors. We voted it out of committee 16-1,” Nemes said.

The bill does not allow for the smoking of marijuana as a treatment, but marijuana could be vaped or taken orally such as in a tea. The bill also prohibits people from growing marijuana in their homes for medical use.

The mammoth bill would allow an in-state resident to be certified by a doctor to receive up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana if certain conditions were met. Namely, the patient would have to receive certification from a doctor with whom he or she has a “bonafide practitioner-patient” relationship through an in-person or telehealth examiner, and with the expectation of receiving care from the doctor “on an ongoing basis.”

A “visiting patient” could receive up to a 10-day supply. Certifications would be for 90 days and could be renewed three times before a patient needs recertification.

The certifying physician would have to be authorized to prescribe marijuana from agencies such as the Board of Medical Licensure.

“There won’t be pain mills here,” Nemes said.

People certified to use marijuana and a caregiver helping a certified patient take prescribed marijuana could not be criminally cited and wouldn’t risk the loss of a professional license.

Regulation of the medical marijuana program would be through Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Control.

The bill spells out a number of medical conditions where marijuana could be used, including Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, autism, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple sclerosis. But the list also includes terminal illnesses and any disease that a physician believes a patient “may receive therapeutic or palliative relief” from medical marijuana.

“In states that have medical marijuana, the opioid addiction rates and overdose rates are reduced substantially,” Nemes said.

A person could be cited for operating a vehicle “while under the influence of medical marijuana,” or for possessing marijuana within “arm’s reach” while in a vehicle if the marijuana is not in a container that takes at least a “two-step” process to open.

Marijuana producers and sellers would be certified by the state, and caps would be set on the THC level of medical marijuana.

Proceeds from tax revenue on cultivators would go to a “medical marijuana trust fund,” which would be distributed to the Kentucky State Police for “enforcement of medicinal marijuana law,” to dispensaries who serve indigent patients and to the Department of Alcohol Beverage and Cannabis Control.

When asked what tax revenue would go to the state’s general fund, Nemes said, “we’re hoping zero.”

“We want it to be zero, and we want (taxes) to be just enough to cover the regulation of the industry,” Nemes said. “If you make one dollar more, it’s making money off the backs of the sick and the injured.”

Nemes said proponents of the bill, “are not interested in bringing recreational marijuana to Kentucky.”

Nemes said he has received comments from citizens supportive of the bill.

“I can’t walk around Frankfort without getting stopped by people telling me what it means to them,” Nemes said.

The National Sheriff’s Association and the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association have both adopted resolutions in favor of having marijuana reclassified from a Schedule I controlled substance to a Schedule II so the Food and Drug Administration can study marijuana for medical uses.

“Some of the research that is being quoted (on the medical benefits of marijuana) is being done outside the United States, which means that research is sometimes suspect,” Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain said Friday. Cain was chairman of the National Sheriff’s Association work group that met in 2018 and recommended the group come out in support of making marijuana a Schedule II drug.

“... Our resolution now says while we feel marijuana does have that potential medicinal value … we don’t know what extent that is, absent the research,” Cain said.

KSA officials have consulted with advocates for previous medical marijuana bills and voiced their concerns.

“We still have a very real concern of adopting marijuana as a formalized medicine by popular vote, assent the research we are advocating,” Cain said.

“We do recognize Rep. Nemes, Jaime Montalvo (of Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana) and other proponents of the bill have worked diligently to address a number of law enforcement’s concerns and appeared in previous bills,” Cain said. Some of those concerns included a desire that medical marijuana not be grown in homes and that it not be smoked.

“While we don’t endorse the bill, we do appreciate the proponents of the bill who have addressed our concerns,” Cain said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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