A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Republican lawmaker Nemes proposing bill to legalize medical marijuana, has changed his mind

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A Republican lawmaker from Louisville is proposing legislation for the 2020 General Assembly that would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky.

Rep. Jason Nemes, whose district includes parts of eastern Jefferson County and Oldham County, introduced similar legislation during the 2019 session, which had 53 bipartisan co-sponsors. It won near-unanimous passage in the Judiciary Committee with only one “no” vote, however, it was never called for a floor vote.

The reason for proposing the bill is simple.

“It’s time in Kentucky for people who will be helped by medical marijuana to have access to it,” he said.

Nemes says the bill is similar to last year’s measure. “It allows physicians if they think their patients will benefit from medical marijuana, to make a recommendation to the patient so they can get it. No one can get it without a bona fide relationship with a physician, an ongoing relationship with that same physician.”

Rep. Jason Nemes (Photo by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today

He notes the measure sets up a lot of licensing regulations for how it’s grown, produced and dispensed.

“The bottom line is the overwhelming majority of Americans have access to medical marijuana, and it’s time Kentucky joins that group.”

Nemes says people have spoken to him about how medical marijuana helps them or how it could help them.

“A number of people have come to me who have no criminal background, just want to feel better and be better. They have admitted to me, their representative, that they commit, effective, felonies, either for themselves or their children.”

The group ProCon.org says 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 11 allow recreational use of the drug.

“When I first ran for office, I was strongly against all forms of marijuana, even medical marijuana. I’m still strongly against recreational marijuana, but with respect to medical marijuana, I was wrong,” Nemes said.

He said he has spoken with numerous physicians and done a lot of research on the subject, and found it helps people.

“It’s not a panacea for the world’s ills, it doesn’t solve everything, but it does help a lot of things. If a physician thinks it will help his or her patient, the legislators need to get out of the way and let the doctors do their job.”

He says in addition to 53 co-sponsors this past session, they also had 65 committed votes in favor of the measure.

“This is a bill that, if it gets a vote on the House floor, it will pass.”

When asked why he didn’t push for a vote this past year, Nemes replied, “We asked for a vote, we just didn’t get one. So, we’re going to ask again and again and again until we get one. Once it comes to the floor, it won’t just pass with 51 or 52, it will pass with an overwhelming constitutional majority of well over 60 votes.”

He says there is overwhelming support for the issue among Kentuckians of all ages and political background, adding, “It’s unquestionable that medical marijuana is good to help us reduce our opioid addiction rates. That is from a University of Kentucky physician who published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s as legitimate of a publication that you can find. What she found was that in states that have medical marijuana, the Medicaid prescription rates for opioids go down eight percent. That tells us that when physicians have another option, they choose it.”

He says data also show an eight to 24 percent reduction in overdose rates, and that the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation endorsed his bill this past year, was well as the Epilepsy Foundation.

 Nemes emphasized doctors should be able to treat patients as they see fit.

“I’m a lawyer, I sue and I defend people for a living,” he said. “I don’t treat people, so why am I and my colleagues standing in the way of allowing physicians to practice medicine? It’s not appropriate. Let’s get out of the way and let doctors do their job. Let doctors decide.”

Some people have said taxing medical marijuana could help the state’s financial woes, such as the public pension system. Nemes says he opposes that.

“Taxing it is cruel. We don’t tax medicine in Kentucky. We’ve made that decision decades ago and this bill honors that decision. I would vote against the bill if it would be taxed. You would be making money on the back of sick people and that’s not appropriate.”

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  1. Brian Kelly says:

    It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national medical marijuana policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-medical marijuana, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

    Politicians who continue to demonize Medical Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Medical Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

    Legalize Medical Marijuana Nationwide!.

    When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let’s have the compassion to allow them to have it.

    Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine.

    Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live.

    Support Medical Marijuana Now!

    “[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997

    “[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.” — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, “Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis,” 1995

    “When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003

    “The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses’ Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine.” — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995

    “[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications.” — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001

    “[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate.” — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998

    “Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003

  2. Tom Rector says:

    It’s a horrible bill.

  3. Terry Dean says:

    obviously a RINO…… Democrats + RINOs = the death of this Republic…..

  4. Joe Q. Public says:

    Legalize marijuana but why should it fund government pensions ? The pension for Kentucky Teachers’ was raided by politicians until Governor Bevin put a stop to it. The Kentucky Lottery also goes to public education but Kentucky Schools are horrible. It is just payola to politicians in an endless pit. Why not allow revenue go to home schooled children ? Allow for legalized marijuana but all revenue goes to a general fund.

  5. Mary Jenice Mitchell says:

    It’s time for full legalization!

  6. Brian Adams says:

    Attitudes toward marijuana have been changing as states across the country have pushed to legalize the drug. While Kentucky is not one of the 23 states to have currently legalized or decriminalized marijuana in some capacity, Kentuckian’s don’t appear to be opposed to the idea.
    A poll found that an overwhelming 78% of Kentuckian’s support legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, while 40% of Kentuckian’s also support legalizing marijuana for any purpose. Despite shifting opinions, the impact of criminalization are still being felt.
    Something as small as a low-level drug conviction can have lasting impacts. Even with a great job and great credit, a conviction can prevent individuals from landing their dream home, receiving a student loan, or obtaining professional licenses.
    Fortunately, individuals with a marijuana possession charge on their record can file a motion to have their convictions voided and sealed. Voiding has the same effect as expunging a conviction, so a record will be cleared of the conviction. An offender is only allowed to void a possession conviction once.
    Historically, it hasn’t been easy for the average person to file their own motion to void and seal a conviction. In an effort to change that, the attorneys at Baldani Law Group have created an automated motion to void and seal generator. Now, anyone can create a motion to void and seal by simply filling out a form. Once the document is generated, an offender simply needs to take the document to their circuit court clerk’s office.

  7. Karen Kirby says:

    It is long past time for KY to legalize marijuana, period. We should have been one of the first states to have legalization! I have a son that at the age of 15 yrs old endured Traumatic Brain Injury in an automobile accident, but I give thanks he’s alive. Without marijuana he suffers severe seizures, even while taking strong seizure medication. He’s now 35 and is a sweet Christian young man that’s in church with us every Sunday. He also sings Gospel music in our family group. Yet everyday he is subjected to criminal charges, as do I because I’m not about to take the risk of him getting into trouble so I make certain he has it! I too am disabled and suffer MULTIPLE back and other issues such as Fibromyalgia. Marijuana is the only thing that relieves the Fibromyalgia. Yet I can’t smoke it because I can’t get my medication for my back; which marijuana also helps, but I can’t afford to buy what I need, or I’d gladly give up the “pills”! At this point I have to believe the Pharmaceutical companies are still running the show!
    I’m having a really hard time understanding how a body can cross an imaginary line (state to state) and smoke all they want, ridiculous! It’s time for this to change! Let the people vote if Politicians can’t do their jobs. Praying for a change!!

  8. James says:

    We need tax dollars. Medical and adult use could give the State more available funding but it should also cover some pitfalls in legalization.

    As far as taxation of cannabis, Michigan has a simple but effective system. Plus they are ahead of most States with handling vaping issues. It’s a good model for Kentucky.

    Another issue is employment. Most current employers test for THC. Positive results is grounds for termination based on Federal, not State law. States can enact laws to allow “off-duty” use as we do with alcohol today. If not, medical use could result in many people losing their jobs.

    Another concern is health care premiums. Companies will want to increase co-pay or employee contributions for medically recommended use. This needs to be addressed in any bill.

  9. Krystal sears says:

    Republicans need to legalize marijuana. It will help people get off pills and it will help the economy

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