Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, who has been championing Kentucky medical marijuana legislation for the past few years, might have just achieved his biggest breakthrough yet — support from a powerful Senator who once opposed his bill.
For the 2022 General Assembly, Nemes filed House Bill 136, a restrictive, 138-page piece of legislation that would allow medical marijuana only for certain conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, nausea or vomiting and post traumatic stress disorder.
He introduced a similar bill during the 2020 session. It passed the House, but was never considered in the Senate, with several members of the chamber’s leadership skeptical of it.
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was against Nemes’ medical marijuana bill that year. During the 2020 session, Westerfield told the Courier Journal, “I know it won’t get a hearing until I’m OK with it, and for sure I’ve still got questions right now.”
On Tuesday, Westerfield tweeted out a statement saying that he will now support this year’s HB136, after several conversations with Nemes.
Nemes said that during the last year and a half, he and Westerfield have met several times — including every other week this past summer — to read the bill together, address concerns and do research.
“He decided, after a lot of study and meeting with his constituents and reading the bill, literally line by line with me, he supports the bill and that’s a massively important develop for the bill’s chances to pass the Senate,” Nemes told CityBeat sister paper LEO Weekly.
Nemes said that he’s been meeting with leadership and other members of the General Assembly as much as possible to explain the bill to them, and said that he feels “strongly” about the conversations that he has had.
Above all, Nemes said that it’s important to get regulated and tested marijuana to the people that need it.
“It’s unquestionable that medical marijuana helps some people,” he said. “I don’t think anybody can contest that. Even the people who oppose it, oppose it for other reasons.”
The bill is expected to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow afternoon. If it gets voted on and passes, it will head to the full House. From there, a successful vote would send it to the Senate.
House Bill 136 isn’t the only marijuana-related bill that’s been introduced in this year’s General Assembly, but it’s likely the one with the best odds to pass the Republican-controlled legislature.This story was originally published by CityBeat sister paper LEO Weekly.