The Richmond Register

February 27, 2014

Medical marijuana bill clears House panel

By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — Stephanie Shown knows it was a small victory in a war she and others calling for legalization of medical marijuana are likely to lose this year.

But the 39-year-old restaurant worker from Whitesville who has suffered from bi-polar, manic-depressive disorder since childhood was elated. She couldn’t suppress the wide smile any more than she could stop the tears from running down her cheeks.

The House Health and Welfare Committee had just voted to send to the full House a bill sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, to allow the “compassionate” use of the drug. The vote was along party lines and most think the bill has little or no chance either in the Democratic-controlled House or Republican-controlled Senate.

“I’m OK with that,” said Shown. “I’m willing to buy my $20 gram (of marijuana) and not bother with my meds.”

Shown began taking legal medications for the bi-polar disorder when she was nine years old. She ticked off an almost endless list of medications she’d taken. But the drugs caused her to suffer seizures. Three years ago she began using marijuana and stopped taking the prescribed medications.

“For the last three years, I’ve been happy and the seizures have stopped,” Shown said. She said he husband knows — and supports her decision — and so does her employer. But she’s still concerned about others who suffer from cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain sufferers and other diagnoses which some say are alleviated by using marijuana.

Marzian, a registered nurse, told the committee she’s “heard from citizens all over the state and from my district that this is something that relieves or alleviates many conditions.”

The bill, if approved, allows physicians to “certify a patient has a qualifying diagnosis” and that patient could then get a permit from the local health department to purchase the drug from a licensed dispensary.

Dr. Suzanne A. Sisley, of Phoenix, said she served as the principal investigator for a study on the medical effects of marijuana and the research indicates it could help patients with several medical conditions, from cancer to arthritis to those with chronic pain.

But under pointed questioning from Rep. Richard Benvenuti, R-Lexington, Sisley said most of the research authorized by the Food and Drug Administration has been tied up and not released publicly. Benvenuti quoted Sisley’s testimony that marijuana “could possibly” help some patients.

“I think this is a valid argument to put before the FDA but not the legislature,” Benvenuti told Sisley. “We need to do the research, but this isn’t a bill that asks for the research; this is a bill making it legal.”

That prompted Michael Krawitz, a disabled Air Force veteran from Virginia who was also testifying for the bill, to respond emotionally.

Krawitz began in an even tone, telling Benvenuti there is valid research in European countries which have documented medical benefits of marijuana. He said he suffers from post-traumatic syndrome disorder.

His voice cracking and growing louder, Krawitz said: “Listen to me. I’m telling you it helped me. I’m a disabled veteran. Why do I have to leave this country to get help?

As those in the audience began to speak out in favor of the bill, committee chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, D-Louisville, warned them and called for a vote. The measure passed with nine Democrats voting for it and the five Republicans voting no.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at