(KY) Magistrates voice support for legalizing medical cannabis

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By Laura Harvey Lead Reporter lharvey@the-messenger.com

Nearly two weeks after Kentucky’s secretary of state announced convening a special task force to propose the legalization of medical cannabis, two Hopkins County magistrates have voiced their support for the action.

Currently, 29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow their citizens to use marijuana in some form — whether for recreation or medicinal purposes. The majority, including Illinois and Ohio, have legalized cannabis for medical purposes only.

On Nov. 15, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced that she had created a task force to focus on a similar legislative proposal. The group includes members of the state’s medical community, law enforcement, medical marijuana advocates and military veterans.

State Rep. John Sims, of Flemingsburg is currently drafting medical marijuana legislation for the 2018 session. On Tuesday, two members of the Hopkins County Fiscal Court voiced their support for the proposal during a regular meeting.

“I am not talking about the ‘average joe’ smoking pot,” said District One Magistrate Karol Welch. “I am talking about people, medical cannabis and the immediate need for laws in Kentucky to allow true, sick and disabled people to legally use cannabis as an option in treating their illness.”

Welch said 12,000 people in Kentucky, including a relative of hers, live with Parkinson’s disease. The incurable disorder, which affects the central nervous system and movement, progressively causes trembling and stiffening of the extremities while affecting balance and coordination.

Welch said some studies have suggested that medical cannabis can significantly improve Parkinson’s symptoms.

“It reduces muscle spasms and stiffness … and improves sleeping, anxiety and eating,” she said. “It also calms your mind without making you crazy. There are numerous studies that support the medical uses of cannabis.

“There needs to be compassionate, common-sense reform of the laws that will help the genuinely sick, diseased and disabled citizens of the Bluegrass State,” she added. “Those are the people who are going to be using it — the citizens. We need to realize that just because you don’t need it today, doesn’t mean you won’t later have an accident and be begging for it tomorrow.”

District Four Magistrate Jack Whitfield Jr. said he agreed with the proposal.

“Five years ago, I was completely against it,” he said. “But I have a twin sister with multiple sclerosis. Four years ago, we were just talking at Thanksgiving and she — my twin, my age — just fell. I mean, she hit the floor and I broke down crying.

“But now I have looked at the statistics,” he added. “(Marijuana) is here already, but I think it will be much better and safer if it were legal.”

While proposed legislation is already scheduled for discussion next year, Welch said she was confident a law governing cannabis use would be passed relatively soon.

“I think it is going to happen,” she said. “I don’t think it is going to take 20 years like some people think it will.”

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