Lawmakers appear ready to make marijuana oil legal in Kentucky, after the Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would make the controversial extract available to treat children with uncontrollable seizures.
The vote is believed to be the first by a Kentucky legislative chamber on medicinal use of the plant since marijuana became illegal in the state decades ago. House leaders say they expect the measure to pass that chamber as well.
Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, would allow the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville medical schools to conduct research and allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with marijuana oil.
"This'll help us tremendously," said Laureen Vassil of Lexington, who watched the vote and considered going to Colorado - where the oil is legal - to seek treatment for daughter Allison, 15, who has suffered uncontrollable seizures for 10 years.
Denton said the bill is aimed at assisting children such as Allison, "who sometimes have hundreds of seizures a day, and these children are gonna be doomed to a lifetime of cognitive disability or even death."
Denton said the oil, administered orally under the tongue, has been shown anecdotally to provide relief to children in severe cases. The oil contains low amounts of THC, the perception-altering ingredient in marijuana.
The bill could have a good chance of passing the House, where Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he hasn't heard of any opposition.
"It likely will get a lot of support," he said before the Senate vote. "... We hear the stories from the families."
The measure also has the backing of Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky State Police.