Kentucky Senate Leader May Block Medical Cannabis Bill’s Progress

Kentucky state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would not give a pending medical cannabis bill its hearing until he is “OK with it.”

Full story after the jump.

The chairman of Kentucky’s Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R), said the medical cannabis bill approved by the state House last week “won’t get a hearing” until he is “OK with it,” the Louisville Courier Journal reports. The measure passed the lower chamber in a 65-30 vote on February 20.

Westerfield said he still has questions about the legislation and said there are parts he “would want to change or at least have someone explain … why they’re in there in the first place.” Among his concerns, he said, are whether the bill would allow “people from other countries that have medical marijuana to get it” in the state, and whether using government agencies to choose which businesses would get a license would be “putting a thumb to the market.”

During the House vote, a slight majority of Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in approving the bill, which prohibits smokable forms of cannabis and home grows, and allows municipalities to opt-out of allowing industry operations, according to the Courier Journal.

Westerfield said he wasn’t sure whether the measure had the majority support among the Republican majority in the Senate to give it a hearing in the committee and that he planned on having a conversation with the caucus before he was prepared to move it forward.

Following the bill’s passage, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers described it as having a “narrow path” to approval in the chamber.

Rep. Jason Nemes (R), the bill’s sponsor, said Republican Senate leadership told him the measure would get a “fair chance” in the upper chamber.

“When you have an open mind and when you come to it in fairness, nine out of 10 people turn their opinions. And that’s what I expect it will be in the Senate as well.” – Nemes to the Courier Journal

In February, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky polling found 90 percent of Kentuckians support medical cannabis legalization, including 95 percent of Democrats, 92 percent of independents, and 90 percent of Republicans.

According to the Courier Journal, medical cannabis reforms have been rebuffed in the state for 10 legislative sessions. The Kentucky legislative session adjourns on April 15.

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