(KY) "Medical marijuana is what’s achievable and it’s what can help the most people the most quickly,"

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — Medicinal marijuana is already legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and a group of Kentuckians is hoping to add the Bluegrass State to the list.

“Medical marijuana is what’s achievable and it’s what can help the most people the most quickly,” Mike Ward said.

Among those advocating for the legalization of medicinal marijuana is former Congressman Mike Ward, now the president and CEO of Legalize Kentucky Now. For him, the fight to give patients alternative treatments is personal, having seen how it helped his younger brother who died of AIDS in the ’90s.

“The staff looked the other way as he smoked marijuana in the bathroom of his hospital room because they knew it helped him have an appetite and keep food down while he was undergoing treatment,” he said.

“When you look at medical marijuana as a way to provide relief to people with serious illnesses and a way to avoid the prescription pain epidemic that’s been sweeping across our country, I think you’re seeing momentum build for it and people become more comfortable with the idea of passing responsible legislation,” State Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D.-District 19, said.

McGarvey is preparing for the upcoming legislative session in Frankfort, which is set to reconvene on Jan. 2. He said he is ready to introduce a piece of legislation legalizing medicinal marijuana – the fourth time he’s brought up this type of legislation.

“I think there are safeguards in place as long as we craft responsible medical marijuana legislation, which fortunately 29 other states have done and we have templates to use now,” he said.

Kentucky Secy. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, has also joined the conversation, announcing Wednesday the formation of a task force headed by herself and State Rep. John Sims. “2018 is and must be the year when Kentucky finally steps up on medical marijuana. We have to get this done to help Kentuckians who are hurting,” she said in a statement.

While Gov. Matt Bevin, R.-Kentucky, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R.-District 25, have come out against legalizing recreational marijuana, and critics have argued there is not enough known about the lasting, long-term impacts of marijuana, McGarvey and Ward said it is something that the people of Kentucky want.

“Anybody running for office – Republican, Democrat, state representatives, state senators – will find if they ask in their districts that it is wildly popular,” Ward said.

Both Ward and McGarvey also tell WHAS11 they support legalizing recreational marijuana as well as a tool to fix the state’s pension crisis, but with Bevin taking a firm stance against any legislation attempting to do so, they said their priority right now is on legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

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Sen. Morgan McGarvey Hosting Public Mtg RE: Medical Marijuana (KY) on February 18th in Louisville, Kentucky

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Senator Morgan McGarvey Hosting 2/18 Public Meeting

Legalize Kentucky Supporters:

Sen. McGarvey filed a bill to allow medical marijuana in last year’s Legislative session and is expected to do so again this year. We need to get a huge crowd to attend this Saturday to thank him for his past support, and show him there are still many supporters of this important issue!

Here is the information: 

Senator Morgan McGarvey

Public Meeting

10 AM

Saturday, February 18

Douglass Community Center

2305 Douglass Blvd

Debate sparks over sexual-orientation bill

BY RONNIE ELLIS CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT—Supporters say the bill would “guarantee equality” for gay and transgender people while opponents say it would “promote religious intolerance.”

Neither side, however, thinks the bill will pass the General Assembly.

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, and Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, have filed companion bills in each chamber to prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodations or employment because of gender identity or sexual orientation.

They appeared before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday to explain the bill and promote its passage, but Judiciary Chairman Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, scheduled the hearing “for discussion only.”

That didn’t prevent an overflow crowd from showing up to hear the discussion. Most of the crowd appeared to support the bill, but there were critics as well, including Kent Ostrander Executive Director of the Family Foundation.

Ostrander had signed up to speak on the bill but when Owens invited him to do so, Ostrander “deferred his remarks.” Later he said Owens had offered supporters 15 minutes to speak while granting him only three and he didn’t think that adequate time to respond.

Later the Family Foundation issued a press release saying Marzian’s House Bill 155 would do little to address the problems of discrimination against gay, lesbian or transgender people but would promote religious intolerance.

“While this bill purports to solve a problem that hardly exists anymore, it will create problems that are already worsening,” said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group.

But McGarvey called it “a simple bill because we already have laws on the books that say you can’t discriminate against people on the basis of race, gender or ethnicity.”

McGarvey said it only “make(s) sense that should include sexual identity.” He said people shouldn’t be denied a place to live or a job or a seat in a restaurant simply because of their sexual identity.

Marzian, who has been in the news for sponsoring a tongue-in-cheek “informed consent” Viagra bill, said her bill would “guarantee equality” for gay, lesbian and transgender people and make Kentucky more progressive and attractive to prospective employers who might be considering re-location.

Bob Rousseau said his company, Peptides International in Louisville, is committed to a diversified workforce and large employers increasingly look for such business personnel policies and government anti-discrimination ordinances.

Western Kentucky University History Professor Dr. Patty Minter told the committee that every Fortune 1000 company in Kentucky supports such legislation and the absence of a state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was leading to “a brain drain” from Kentucky.

“Some of Kentucky’s best and brightest leave their home state for no other reason” than the lack of such anti-discrimination laws, she said.

Even if Owens’ committee takes a vote on the measure it would have a hard time passing the full House in a conservative state during an election year. And McGarvey said it’s improbable the bill will receive a hearing in the Republican-controlled Senate.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort

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