Surprise vote change passes medical marijuana bill out of commit - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Surprise vote change passes medical marijuana bill out of committee

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Jaime Montalvo Jaime Montalvo
Molly Sawyers Molly Sawyers
State Rep. Reggie Meeks (D-District 42/Louisville) State Rep. Reggie Meeks (D-District 42/Louisville)
State Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-District 88/Lexington) State Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-District 88/Lexington)

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) – Two lawmakers changed their votes at the last minute, allowing a bill to legalize medical marijuana to clear a Kentucky House committee.

Medical marijuana supporters, some of whom testified before the House Health and Welfare Committee that the marijuana effectively treated their ailments, cried and hugged each other after the vote.

It's the first time the medical marijuana issue has passed out of committee, although supporters acknowledged it may not get any further in Frankfort this year.

"It's an emotional day," said Jaime Montalvo, a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer. "It took a lot to get here and it's a step in the right direction."

Reps. Reggie Meeks, D-Louisville, and Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, changed their votes from "pass" to "yes" when it appeared the measure didn't have enough support for committee approval.

Supporters cheered with every "yes" vote, erupting in applause when the committee's chairman announced the legislation had passed.

"I don't want to give false hope," Westrom cautioned, adding that she thought the bill wouldn't get any further.

Molly Sawyers' husband, an Iraq war veteran, has Multiple Sclerosis. The two hugged and kissed after the hearing.

"It means everything," said Sawyers, of Simpsonville. "This is my children's future too, not just my husband's future."

Opponents said medical marijuana had dangerous side effects, and said there wasn't enough research to back up the benefits that supporters claim.

"What you're asking us to do as a legislature is approve drugs, to circumvent the FDA process, and approve a drug based on ‘could possibly,''" said Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington.

The comment by Benvenuti drew catcalls from the standing room-only crowd and opposition from a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran, who pleaded with the committee to pass the legislation.

The measure now moves to the full House for consideration. Speaker Greg Stumbo said Thursday he was open to discussing the issue, but stopped short of supporting the bill.

"The issue is getting the legislative members to vote on this," said Montalvo, "getting them to have the courage to come out and vote."

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