Kentucky lawmakers warn more research needed before legalizing medical marijuana

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Some Kentucky lawmakers are waving the red flag about medical marijuana. As the push to legalize medical cannabis catches fire, they said the effort needs to be more of a slow burn.

During a meeting of the Interim Health, Welfare and Family Services Committee, some legislators warned of the need for more research before Kentucky legalizes medical marijuana.

“Think of the snake oil remedies and the salesmen of the 1800s,” said Rep. Danny Bentley, a Republican from Russell.

Bentley, a trained pharmacist, introduced a resolution “calling for the expediting of research regarding the safety and efficacy of the use of marijuana for medical purposes.”

“Think about it,” Bentley said. “Opioids and nicotine were marketed as harmless and went on, by scientific evidence, to show that they killed people.”

Sen. Ralph Alavarado, a Winchester Republican who is also a medical doctor, echoed Bentley's concern.

“When you use the term medical marijuana, everybody assumes that if you don't support that and you're a doctor, you must be some kind of an animal because you don't want people to have relief,” he said. “But we need to have the research and the study to know how much, when to give it, how frequently, for what purposes and for what causes.“

But supporters of medical pot point out that research is extremely difficult, because the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic.

Jaime Montalvo, executive director of Kentuckians for Medical marijuana, said the resolution amounts to a delay tactic.

“It's a way to pacify the populace, make them think that something good is happening when, in fact, nothing will happen because the research for a pharmaceutical takes years,” Montalvo said.

But Bentley said his resolution is not intended to snuff out medical marijuana.

“I'm not against the product," he said. "I just want it to be safe and effective."

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican, said he is moving forward with his bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana. Nemes said he plans to file the bill Jan. 10.

Nemes said more research is needed, but he has not decided whether to support Bentley’s resolution.

“If I see it as a ploy to delay, I’ll be strongly against it,” he said.

Bentley acknowledged a similar resolution failed in the last session. It passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

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