New organization supports cannabis

Kentucky Bluegrass Cannabis, LLC has launched a statewide grassroots campaign seeking to pass legislation that will legalize, regulate and tax medical marijuana in Kentucky.

The campaign is known as Compassionate Access and Relief Effectiveness or CARE for Kentucky, advocates for citizens and policymakers to support legislation currently before the Kentucky General Assembly to legalize medical cannabis.

With SB118 filed in the Senate and HB166 filed in the House in Kentucky, organizations such as CARE and Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana are pushing for support for the legalization of medical cannabis.

In both SB118 and HB166, the idea is for individuals with conditions that may be helped with medical cannabis to have access to the drug if a physician approves them for it. The individual would receive a medical cannabis card and need it on them at all times.

“One doesn’t have to be pro-cannabis to be pro alleviating pain and suffering,” said Michael Raus, founder of Kentucky Bluegrass Cannabis, LLC. “We are simply asking lawmakers to have enough compassion to give those in pain an important medicine that can make their lives better, and in some cases, actually save their lives. We are asking lawmakers to CARE.”

State Rep. John Sims was the original sponsor for HB166 and said, “It’s an option (medical cannabis) to choose instead of a pill or another form to help with pain and other needs they have. This a win for the state of Kentucky.”

“The products created by this industry will provide real relief to thousands of patients suffering from debilitating diseases, such as cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, just to name a few,” said Raus.

Raus said the other major benefits of the proposed legislation are helping deal with Kentucky’s current heroin and opioid epidemic as well as its fiscal crisis. “The legalization, regulation, and taxation of medical cannabis can help address both of these pressing needs,” said Raus.

Kentucky ranked third in the United States in opioid-abuse mortality rates and the state saw a 21 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015. States with medical cannabis laws have a 25 percent lower mean annual opioid mortality rate compared to states without these laws, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Taxes generated by medical cannabis could help Kentucky address its current public-pension crisis and provide significant revenue needed for the state’s general fund, according to Raus.

“Creating this new industry in our state will generate millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue,” said Raus. “While also creating high-paying jobs at a time when state and local governments are in desperate need of new revenue.”

Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana with West Virginia being the latest state to pass this legislation in 2017. West Virginia projected that the sale of medical cannabis would generate millions of dollars in additional tax revenue.  

“Now is the time for Kentucky to join the other 29 states in our country to legalize medical cannabis and bring compassionate access and relief to thousands of Kentuckians suffering pain from debilitating diseases,” said Raus.

State Sen. Stephen West was the original sponsor for SB118. West spoke about the legalization of medical cannabis in a previous article saying, “Kentucky is slow to do a lot of things but in this case, it helps us. We can see what best practices we should use. I think it is time in Kentucky that we have the medical marijuana option for people.”

“We want residents across the state to engage with their lawmakers to strongly urge them to support this legislation,” said Raus. “Medical cannabis will not only provide relief to thousands of Kentuckians suffering from chronic pain and other medical issues, but it also can help reduce our dependency on addictive opioids and provide the financial support that our state desperately needs right now.”

HB166 currently has 21 sponsors and SB118 has eight sponsors. Both bills are in their respective committees to be voted on and presented in the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives.