Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, spoke during a rally opposing SB 6, a proposal to crack down on illegal immigrants, held on the steps of the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, February 8, 2011. Senate Bill 6 would make it a state crime Ñ a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances Ñ for illegal immigrants to enter Kentucky, or for anyone to harbor or transport them or encourage their residency in the state. The measure has cleared the Senate but faces long odds in the House Local Government Committee. Charles Bertram | Staff
Senator Perry B. Clark (D)
Senate District 37
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Louisville KY 40214
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Frankfort KY 40601
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House 1995 – 06; Senate 2006 – Present
Born September 30, 1957. Quality Training. Christian. US Navy. Boy Scouts of America, Vol Merit Badge Counselor, District Chair. Community vol.
Health & Welfare (S); Judiciary (S); Veterans, Military Affairs, & Public Protection (S)
Program Review and Investigations Comm.
FRANKFORT — A proposal to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Kentucky will carry the name of Lexington attorney and perennial political candidate Gatewood Galbraith, who died of complications from pneumonia in January.
State Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, said he knows the measure has slim chances in the 2013 legislative session, but he encouraged dozens of supporters who gathered at a news conference Thursday to call their state lawmakers.
"No, we do not have the votes," said Clark, who acknowledged he has smoked marijuana and would likely qualify for a medical prescription because of chronic back pain. "It’s going to be very, very difficult."
Clark filed the Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act shortly after Galbraith’s death during the 2012 legislative session, but the bill never received a hearing. Clark said he plans to refile the bill for the 2013 session, which begins in January.
The proposal would make marijuana a schedule II drug. It would allow people who have a prescription for marijuana to get up to 5 ounces of the drug per month and to cultivate up to five marijuana plants at a time.
Clark was joined by members of Galbraith’s family at the news conference, including daughters Molly and Abby. Both urged people to support the cause that their father pushed for decades.
Galbraith gained notoriety as Kentucky’s most vocal advocate for the legalization of marijuana. He ran unsuccessfully for governor five times and sought several other public offices through the years.
The news conference began with a 1991 video of Galbraith extolling the benefits of marijuana and criticizing law enforcement during a stump speech.
Clark cited multiple studies that cite the beneficial use of marijuana for an assortment of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other chronic degenerative diseases.
"The concept of the prohibition of a medicine is opposed to the very freedoms that this country was once about," Clark said. "It’s anathema to freedom … this is a liberty issue."
Clark, who faces Republican Chris Thieneman in the November general election, said he is not worried that his controversial stance on marijuana will hurt his re-election chances. Clark was first elected to the Senate in 2006 and had previously served in the Kentucky House.
"I’m pretty bold," Clark said. "I’m not afraid … I’ve never really cared about being elected or not being elected."
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of marijuana. California was the first state to pass such a law in 1996. Michigan is the closest state to Kentucky that has legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Robin Waller, who attended Thursday’s news conference, is a resident of both California and Kentucky. Waller showed her prescriptions for medical marijuana, which she has used since 2005 and credits with easing her multiple sclerosis symptoms.
"I’m doing a lot better than people who have had MS for as long as I have," Waller said.
Others who spoke in favor of the proposal included cancer patients, those with chronic pain and degenerative diseases and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jacob Jones said police shot his father, Gary Earl Shepherd, who Jones said was growing pot at the time of his death. Jones said his father was a disabled Vietnam War veteran and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jones, who was only 4 at the time of his father’s 1993 death, said he backs medical marijuana laws because he, too, has suffered from post-traumatic stress after witnessing his father’s death.
"Cannabis is medicine," Jones said.
Kentucky State Police are among the leading opponents of the proposal.
"The legalization of marijuana, whether for medicinal use or hemp growth, presents serious challenges to Kentucky’s law enforcement," said Capt. David Jude. "To distinguish what would be grown and/or possessed for ‘legal use’ versus ‘illegal use’ would prove to be difficult, making our enforcement efforts less efficient and possibly less effective. I feel confident that our legislators will consider the impact that legalizing a drug like marijuana will have on all of our communities as well as law enforcement."
Jude said state police troopers will continue to "aggressively enforce" current marijuana laws, "and if those laws are changed, our enforcement efforts will adapt accordingly."
The conservative Family Foundation of Kentucky also opposes the bill, saying the use of Galbraith’s name is "an opportunistic gimmick."
"In states where medical marijuana laws are on the books, ‘jet lag’ and ‘stress’ become qualifying ailments that allow for medical marijuana," said Andrew Walker, an analyst with the foundation. "Over and over, spurious claims show that medicinal marijuana laws become subject to blatant and rampant abuse."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.Beth Musgrave: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com
Health Canada plans to no longer allow individuals to grow marijuana for medical use, with all approved grow operations instead being produced by larger industrial growers.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the agency is moving to eliminate personal grow-ops that will not require inspection.
"We are moving forward in looking at medical marijuana in terms of how any other prescription drug is accessed," the minister said.
More than 15,000 people are licensed to grow medical marijuana in Canada, but Health Canada has no record of staff ever inspecting any of the growers, CBC News has learned.
Medical marijuana by the numbers
As of May 29, 2012:
- 19,482 people had a permit to possess medical marijuana
- 12,649 had a licence to grow medical marijuana
- 2,550 people were designated to grow
Burlington resident John Fattore has ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that causes inflammation of the joints between the spinal bones.
It has destroyed his feet and makes him experience immense pain. He spent years bedridden, taking OxyContin and Percocet to ease the pain.
"It will kill him," said his wife Brenda of the disease.
By chance, Brenda met Hamilton’s Derek Pedro, a Health Canada designated medical marijuana grower and user, at a doctor’s office. He recommended her husband try it.
"The pain relief was instant," Brenda said.
Health Canada implemented its medical marijuana access regulations in 2001. Under the program, people with "grave and debilitating illnesses" can be granted legal access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. People seeking a permit apply in writing to Health Canada, with a supporting document from a medical practitioner.
People who are licensed by Health Canada to possess medical marijuana can then apply for a permit to grow it for personal use, or to have someone else grow it for them through a "designated-person production licence" if they weren’t able to grow their own.
Fattore has had a license to grow marijuana for personal use for two years and now grows his plants on Pedro’s property. He no longer spends his days in bed, but is mobile in a motorized wheelchair.
As of May 2012, over 12,000 people have a licence to grow medical marijuana. (Julia Chapman/CBC)
Brenda says he uses half of the pharmaceutical medicine he used to, and some days, doesn’t take any at all.
The Hamilton Spectator reported that in June, the RCMP charged Pedro with trafficking marijuana and conspiracy to produce marijuana. Police allege he indirectly sold 500 marijuana clones to undercover police officers involved in the probe. Clones are the rooted cuttings of adult marijuana plants.
Pedro is out on $2,500 bail for a court appearance in London, Ont. in July.
Brenda was a health care aid before she quit her job to take care of her husband. At first, she was uneasy about John using medical marijuana.
P.O.V. Should Health Canada centralize medicinal marijuana production? Take our poll.
"I was paranoid for my husband to use it because of my medical background," she said. "Now I totally believe in the transformation of the sick."
If the Fattore’s are no longer allowed to have a license to grow medical marijuana, Brenda said they will "absolutely not" be able to afford marijuana at the price health Canada will charge — $150 an ounce. Fattore uses half an ounce a day.
"He’ll have to go back on hydromorphine and he’ll be a vegetable in bed," she said.
"The government wants the money," she said. "They don’t want the little guys taking care of the sick people."
Curtis Wallace, a designated grower who works with Pedro, said he’s in the business because of the "satisfaction of helping people" — and because he believes in the plant.
A 2010 report prepared by the RCMP for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police analyzed 190 cases of medical marijuana abuse. Just over one-third of the cases documented in the study involved trafficking or the production of more marijuana than permitted in the licence.
Ottawa isn’t expected to unveil new medical marijuana rules until 2014. In the meantime, Health Canada keeps issuing individual growing permits for a program it struggles to police.