A judge's gavel rests on a desk inside of a U.S. court room.

Beth Cortez-Neavel

Lawsuit Filed Challenging Kentucky MMJ Ban

A lawsuit has been filed in Kentucky challenging the state’s criminal ban on medical cannabis, claiming that it violates privacy protections set forth by the state constitution and that the government cannot arbitrarily restrict the ability of patients to use effective medicines, the Associated Press reports. Three plaintiffs are named in the suit including Dan Seum Jr., the son of a Republican state senator.

Another plaintiff, Amy Stalker, was able to access medical cannabis in Colorado and Washington to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder and irritable bowel syndrome but maintains her health has deteriorated after she moved back to Kentucky to be with her sick mother.

“She comes back to her home state and she’s treated as a criminal for this same conduct,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Canon in the report. “That’s absurd, it’s irrational and it’s unconstitutional.”

The suit also touts cannabis’ role in stemming the opioid epidemic in states with legal cannabis access. Kentucky ranked third in the nation in opioid-related deaths in 2015.

Seum, the son of state Sen. Dan Seum Sr., admitted that he has struggled with opioid addiction after being prescribed OxyContin for chronic back pain and began using cannabis to manage withdrawal symptoms. Once he began using cannabis, no pain management doctor would treat him, he said.

The suit says that left Seum with “an impossible choice.”

“Should he stop using cannabis and experience excruciating pain in order to explore the chance that another pain management option might be more effective? Or should he continue using cannabis, preventing him from receiving medical care from Kentucky doctors for the rest of his life?” the suit contends.

Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Bevin has said he is “not opposed to the idea” of medical cannabis but would prefer to see it administered like other pharmaceutical drugs – which is impossible due to the plant’s federal Schedule I status.

In 2014, Kentucky lawmakers did approve a measure allowing limited use of CBD products, but attempts at a comprehensive program have been consistently thwarted by the legislature.

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