UPDATED FRANKFORT — Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, started out at “no” on legislation allowing the medical use of marijuana in Kentucky, but since that time he’s become supportive and says he’s trying to convince his colleagues to pass narrowly defined legislation aimed at approving a medical marijuana measure in the commonwealth.
Recently after days of delays on a vote, Nemes gained headlines when he voted to pass-over House Bill 166 , he said the bill as it was written would have died in committee, but he kept it alive and is helping to make changes to the bill in an effort to pass it this session.
One of the things he’s working on is to ensure recreational marijuana is not created by accident, by making medical marijuana difficult to obtain by limiting the types of illnesses treated with the still illegal drug.
Nemes said that cancers, post-traumatic stress disorders, glaucoma, chronic long term pain, and multiple sclerosis conditions would remain as treatable with marijuana in the legislation, but he’s seeking to remove mobility impairments and fibromyalgia as qualifying conditions under the bill.
“If needs to broaden in the future, if the science goes that way then that’s something we can consider, but right now I am not there, and, I know, the majority of my colleagues are not there,” he said. “I strongly believe we have the votes in the House of Representatives to support medical marijuana. … but we have to hold the line, because we do not have the votes and I do not believe Kentuckians will support recreational marijuana use.”
Nemes is also seeking to remove a portion of the bill which would have allowed multiple adult marijuana plants and seedlings to be grown in the homes of patients, he says that language will be changed under the bill — though the verdict is out on the number or if it will be struck altogether with patients getting their marijuana from dispensaries.
Through the tweaks to the legislation, Nemes says he has turned “seven or eight votes” in the House.
“I feel like we’re gaining momentum the question is whether or not we’ll gain enough momentum in the short time we have and if we’ll get the committee chairman and the house leaders to call for a vote,” he said.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes issued a statement on Tuesday, calling on House Judiciary Chair Joe Fischer to call the bill for a vote in committee, and for the House leaders to hold a vote on the House floor.
“Last week, Rep. Nemes wanted changes to parts of House Bill 166,” Grimes said. “Those changes have been made. Now, I am calling on GOP leaders, including Speaker Osborne and House Judiciary Chairman Fischer, to bring the revised House Bill 166 to a vote. It’s time Kentuckians know where their representatives stand. Voters expect action from their legislators – not stall tactics and political games.
“Our state is in dire need of new revenue and medical cannabis can be that source and save lives,” Grimes continued. “Let’s make Kentucky the 31st state to make medical cannabis legal, give patients a treatment option that’s not opioids, and give our economy another jumpstart. It’s time.”