Kentucky lawmakers have been discussing the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, and how sexual assault in the military plays a factor.
Dr. Mary Sweeney was among a team of physicians from the Robley Rex Veterans Affairs hospital in Louisville who recently testified before a joint Committee on the Military, Veterans Affairs and Public Safety about PTSD treatment efforts.
“Fifty percent of people who experience a rape go on to get PTSD. The numbers are lower for combat. Vietnam veterans, probably about 30 percent at some point in their life. Gulf War veterans, perhaps 10 percent. The numbers are still out in the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”
Many veterans have lobbied Frankfort in support of medical marijuana as a treatment for their symptoms.
About 18,500 veterans in Kentucky suffer from PTSD. Nationwide, that number is 350,000.
Medical Marijuana for Veterans?
Kentucky lawmakers also heard testimony from those advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana as a way for veterans to cope with the impact of PTSD and physical ailments related to their military service.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul is teaming up with a Democratic colleague to defend states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Paul and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker are sponsoring an amendment to a spending bill being debated by Congress that would prohibit the federal government from spending money to combat medical marijuana in states that allow it. The U.S. House recently passed a measure similar to what Paul and Booker are proposing.
The amendment wouldn’t legalize medical marijuana nationally, but would instead prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prosecutors from investigating and bringing charges against individuals who are complying with state law.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia currently have laws that legalize or regulate the use of medicinal marijuana. While Kentucky isn’t on that list, state lawmakers recently passed a bill that would allow research to be conducted on the possible prescription of cannabis oil to treat certain medical conditions. The oil is extracted from hemp and marijuana plants.
State lawmakers heard Wednesday another round of impassioned testimony over legalizing medical marijuana in the state.
The legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Health & Welfare heard pleas from a nurse practitioner and people with disabilities who say that the drug, which is currently available for medicinal use in 22 states, would alleviate symptoms of pain.
Louisville Democratic Rep.Tom Burch says he thinks it’s just a matter of time before it’s legalized for medical use.
“I was here when we criminalized the use of marijuana back in the 70s," Burch said. "It was a rush to, you know, get these criminals off the street, and all this kind of stuff that was going on. It was ill advised, but it was a good election year and everybody wanted to be against crime, so that's why we passed it, so that a little bag of marijuana would get you five years."
The legislature will take up the issue again next month when it will examine the effects of marijuana on post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.
(From left) Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, Dr. Sue Sisley of Arizona, and Michael Krawitz, founder of Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access, present a medical marijuana bill to the House Health and Welfare Committee.
The movement to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Kentucky made another leap forward on Thursday.
A House Health and Welfare Committee, packed to bursting with medical marijuana supporters, approved a bill that would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. It passed by a 9-5 partisan line vote, with Democrats voting in support of the measure.
The bill's primary sponsor, Re. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, is a retired nurse. She said the bill will help alleviate the the suffering of some patients without the need for costly medication and their potential for harmful side-effects.
"I've been a nurse forever, and we do give people just boatloads of medications that either don't work or they have tons of side-effects," Marzian said. "So if this is an answer to some of those diseases and conditions, then I think, 'Why don't we look at it?'"
According to the poll, 52 percent of those surveyed favor legalizing medical marijuana in the commonwealth, while 37 percent are opposed.
It’s the second year in a row a Bluegrass Poll has shown strong support for legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Last year’s poll asked Kentuckians if they supported “prescribed” medical marijuana, and 60 percent responded favorably. This year’s poll dropped the word “prescribed.”
Medical marijuana proponents in Kentucky say the poll shows the effort is gaining momentum, though changes to state law seem unlikely during this year’s General Assembly.
The Bluegrass Poll was conducted January 30 through February 3 by SurveyUSA, and included the responses of 1,082 Kentuckians. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.
Supporters of medical marijuana in Kentucky are once again taking their efforts to Frankfort.
Advocates briefed lawmakers in the House Health & Welfare Committee Thursday on the medical benefits of marijuana. They say it can alleviate symptoms of multiple illnesses.
Josh Stanley works at the Colorado-based “Realm of Caring,” a non-profit that cultivates strains of marijuana for medical use. He told lawmakers that his company has developed a low-potency strain that can be used to treat epilepsy in children, and that Kentucky families have moved to his state to use this product.
“For a parent to stand across an invisible border and a boundary that we call a state and watch other children get well, and know that there’s nothing they can do for their child because they live in Kentucky, or they live in Kansas, it’s unacceptable. Something has to happen in that regard.”
Committee member Rep. Robert Benvenuti voiced opposition to the idea, saying that he was skeptical of the science.
A new poll shows 78 percent of Kentuckians support the legalization of medical marijuana, while others would be fine with widespread legalization.
The Kentucky Health Issues Poll has conducted polling on a wide array of issues for the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky over the past few months, from a statewide smoking ban to health insurance coverage.
Its latest poll shows overwhelming support for medical marijuana in Kentucky. It also shows roughly one in four Kentuckians would be okay with legalizing pot even for recreational use.
Only 38 percent oppose legalizing marijuana for any reason at all.
Foundation CEO Susan Zepeda was surprised by the results. She says marijuana still poses some health risks, even if it's used for medical purposes.
Efforts are underway in the current Kentucky General Assembly on both those fronts. The industrial hemp bill has been the subject of much attention recently, with Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, and U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie testifying in Frankfort on behalf of the effort.
A Radcliff man has been indicted for complicity to commit trafficking in medical marijuana that investigators believe was being shipped to Kentucky from Colorado and California.
The Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force arrested 35 year old Henry Butler last month at his home. He was indicted by a grand jury last week. According to court documents, the U.S. Postal Service seized about $14,000 in cash that Butler was mailing to California.
A Kentucky Senator is unveiling legislation Thursday that would make medical marijuana legal in the Bluegrass State. Louisville Democrat Perry Clark's bill would make marijuana a schedule two drug, meaning it would be recognized as having legitimate medical purposes, while still being somewhat restricted.