Key vote advances medical marijuana in Kentucky

A key senator flipped his vote from no to yes Tuesday morning.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 4:28 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After years of trying, Kentucky lawmakers may be close to approving a medical marijuana program in the state.

A key senator flipped his vote from no to yes Tuesday morning.

State representatives have approved medical marijuana in prior sessions. But the idea has consistently failed in the Senate. There may now be a movement to approve this bill.

“This was a decision I came to myself in a very private, personal manner,” Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) said. “There were less than five people in the world who knew I was going to vote yes when I walked in here today, I guess I’m trying to show a little more empathy and sympathy in my old age.”

Thayer is the key flip on this bill. With his yes vote, it is increasingly likely a medical marijuana bill will get to the Senate floor for a vote. Supporters in the hallway thanked him for his change of heart.

“Life in this wheelchair is not easy, I’m still walking in my dreams,” Eric Crawford said.

He has been lobbying lawmakers for a decade now. He said medical marijuana is the only relief for injuries he sustained in a car crash, leaving his legs and arms paralyzed.

“Medical cannabis relaxes my continued uncontrollable muscle spasms, medical cannabis relieves my constant never-ending pain,” Crawford said.

The bill would take effect in July next year, presumably to give state agencies time to build out the program.

Democratic Governor Andy Beshear called on lawmakers to pass a medical marijuana bill this year. He created a small medical marijuana program through executive order late last year. Thayer cautioned that his support does not mean the bill will be an easy vote for his colleagues.

“We will assess whether or not we have the votes on the floor to take a vote on Thursday, and that’s still up in the air. It’s a jump ball,” Thayer said.

All eyes will be on the Senate Thursday. If medical marijuana can pass there, the House will likely approve and send the bill to the Governor’s desk before the end of the session.