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Lawsuit Challenges Kentucky Medical Marijuana Ban

Update Date: Jun 16, 2017 09:31 PM EDT

Advocates of the medical use of marijuana entered a suit in the Franklin County Circuit Court claiming that the state's ban on the treatment violates state constitutional privacy protections. The suit also states that the ban violates the right of patients to use medicine that works. 

Many advocates of medical marijuana point to research that shows it to be effective in keeping people off of opioids. Kentucky has one of the worst opioid epidemics in the country. 

The patchwork of state laws has created a bizarre trap for many patients. One plaintiff, Amy Stalker, was prescribed medical marijuana while living in Colorado and Washington state to help treat symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome and bipolar disorder. She has moved back to Kentucky to be with her sick mother.

"She comes back to her home state and she's treated as a criminal for this same conduct," said plaintiffs' attorney Daniel Canon. "That's absurd, it's irrational and it's unconstitutional."

Stalker explained her position to reporters: "I just want to be able to talk to my doctors the same way I'm able to talk to doctors in other states, and have my medical needs heard."  

Governor Matt Bevin, whose record on marijuana is mixed, was named as a defendant in the suit. 

"I am not opposed to the idea of medical marijuana," the governor said then. "If prescribed like other drugs, if administered in the same way that we would other pharmaceutical drugs, I think it would be appropriate in many respects." The Governor was recorded as saying in a radio program earlier this year.

The suit goes on to state that Kentucky had the third highest death rate from opioid overdoses in 2015 and that hospital admissions from opioid abuse have decreased in states where medical marijuana is allowed. 

Bills calling for Kentucky to lift the ban have been rejected by state lawmakers. 

The son of a Kentucky state senator, Dan Seum Jr. said that he got addicted to Oxycontin after a back injury. He started taking cannabis to deal with the pain. After he started taking cannabis, no pain management doctors in the state of Kentucky would see him. 

"I live in pain daily. Cannabis helps me deal with it," Seum declared.

According to the suit, "Mr. Seum is left with an impossible choice: Should he stop using cannabis and experience excruciating pain in order to explore the chance that another pain management option might be more effective?" the suit said. "Or should he continue using cannabis, preventing him from receiving medical care from Kentucky doctors for the rest of his life?" 

Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia have authorized the use of medical marijuana. In a state known for the beauty and quality of their grass, it's a shame that their citizens don't get to reap the benefits of any of it. 

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