General Assembly to consider legalizing medical marijuana, GC Fiscal Court voted to support the legislation

Kentucky lawmakers have released details on a medical marijuana legalization bill filed on Wednesday.

The bill, filed by GOP Representatives Diane St. Onge, of Ft. Wright and Jason Nemes, of Louisville, aims to help Kentuckians who have “debilitating illnesses and excruciating pain.” If passed, the legislation would make medical marijuana available for up to 60,000 Kentuckians and would be regulated by the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

“This bill is designed to help Kentuckians in pain when their doctors say medical marijuana will help them,” Rep. Nemes said in a statement. “It is time to allow doctors to have this option for patients.”

The state-run system will issue licenses for cultivators, dispensaries, and processors along with practitioners and patients, according to media reports.

“The intention of this legislation is not the generate tax revenue, but rather to provide relief to the thousands of Kentuckians who suffer from conditions that have not responded to traditional medicine,” St. Onge said.

In October, Grayson County Fiscal Court unanimously voted to support making medical marijuana legal in Kentucky at the urging of Grayson County resident Alexandria Fulkerson, who’s one-year-old daughter suffers from polymicrogyria, a condition characterized by abnormal development of the brain before birth. Fulkerson is supporting legislation that legalizes medical marijuana because of its therapeutic effects on those who suffer from seizures; which afflicts her daughter, Kolbie Saltsman, to a frightening degree.

The surface of the brain normally has many ridges or folds, called gyri, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, but in people with polymicrogyria, the brain develops too many folds, and the folds are unusually small.

Bilateral forms of polymicrogyria tend to cause more severe neurological problems. Signs and symptoms of these conditions can include recurrent seizures (epilepsy), delayed development, crossed eyes, problems with speech and swallowing, and muscle weakness or paralysis. The most severe form of the disorder, bilateral generalized polymicrogyria, affects the entire brain. This condition causes severe intellectual disability, problems with movement, and seizures that are difficult or impossible to control with medication.

Fulkerson is unable to travel with her daughter to the nearest state where medical marijuana is legal (Illinois) due to the baby’s fragile condition, and has been desperate to help ease her baby’s pain and suffering.

At first reticent of speaking positively about medical marijuana, Judge-Executive Kevin Henderson noted his long years in law enforcement as the reason for him thinking negatively about legalizing marijuana in any form, but after consulting with doctors and other professionals, Henderson had a change of heart.

In a 10-minute statement on his views on medical marijuana at the October Fiscal Court meeting, Henderson said:

“As I’ve said before, as a 27-year veteran of law enforcement, probably five years ago I would have said I am completely against (the legalization of medical marijuana). But as I told you all, I am open-minded, and I do my research … I can tell you this, I have five kids of my own (and) I will do anything that I can do for my child, short of being illegal. I don’t know what I would do; I don’t think anyone in this room knows what they would do (in your situation).

“I have a lot of friends that are doctors and I just want to address the court, and tell them … I asked a lot of folks what their thoughts were on it … I got with a lot of doctors, local doctors, and I have one (doctor), and I don’t want to bring up his name because he’s not in politics and it wouldn’t be fair to him … I asked him, ‘What’s your thoughts on medical marijuana?’ He said it’s a definite benefit. It helps nausea (from the side-effects of chemotherapy), appetite loss, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain syndromes, inflammation, muscle spasms, post traumatic stress disorder, and epilepsy. And I’m going to tell you, this is a guy; if it’s a medical question, if he told me I needed to do something, I’d do it … I trust him that much.

“And I just didn’t ask him. I asked a lot of other doctors … But if the legislation passes … I don’t people coat-tailing you all … for recreational use. I’m not for recreational use. I am not for the recreational use of marijuana.

“My father, and Norman (Chaffins) will not care if I say this, my father and his father were raging alcoholics. My father died an alcoholic. I think alcohol is a far worse drug than marijuana. I’ve seen it destroy people … Some of the doctors that I spoke with said you could smoke a bale of marijuana and not overdose. But if you drink a fifth of vodka, and you’ve never drank, you could be dead the next morning.

“I listened to the medical professionals (on the medical marijuana issue) … and as far as I’m concerned, I am wholeheartedly for your child,” an emotional Henderson strongly stated. And with that, Henderson received an ovation not only from supporters of the Fulkerson family, but from everyone present.

Henderson then struggled to say, “I try to imagine my own child being there (in Kolbie’s condition), excuse me,” he said as he composed himself, “and what you’re going through … “

(Photo: Kolbie Saltsman)

By Ken Howlett, News Director

Contact Ken at ken@k105.com or 270-259-6000

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