FRANKFORT — Here’s a Q & A with State Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, sponsor of the medical marijuana bill in the House.
Q: Is this smoking pot or a pill?
A: There is no smoking. It’s mostly going to be pills and oils, but there is an opportunity for inhalers, for people who can’t swallow. But there is no smoking, this is a no smoking bill. No combustion, no smoking.
Q: What does research reveal about who is getting a card to purchase marijuana? There are indications that the average recipient is a 40-year-old man who complained of chronic pain.
A: It depends on the state. A lot of states have it where it is chronic pain. Chronic pain is important to cover, and we’re going to leave it up to the physician, obviously. There are people with chronic pain, a lot of people with Multiple Sclerosis, some with epilepsy. The second biggest category behind chronic pain in some states is PTSD, in other states it’s things like wasting syndrome for folks being treated with cancer. So, chronic pain is very important to include, but the way we’re doing it in our bill, is you have to have chronic pain that is associated with an underlying condition. And it can’t just be, ‘My back hurts,’ it has to be chronic pain associated with Chron’s Disease, or something of that nature.
Q: Who would this be helping?
A: It’s going to help thousands and thousands of Kentuckians, mostly people who don’t want to get on opioids or want to get off opioids, or people who are undergoing cancer treatment, where they are nauseous or they don’t have an appetite. It will help those type of things. That’s what it’s been used for in other states and we have listed those conditions. We’ve also allowed the Department of Health to add conditions or delete conditions as the science determines.
Q: How will it be regulated?
A: Each physician that wants to do this has to be approved by the Board of Medical Licensure so, if someone has misbehaved in the past, they are probably not going to be approved, and that’s appropriate. Once they get approved, they will have to log every time they make a recommendation to a patient into the KASPER System, so regulators and law enforcement can monitor it. The individual patient will be regulated in that they must have a bona fide physician-patient relationship, you can’t just go to some pill mill on the corner. If the physician says it will help, then the patient can get a medical marijuana card.
We also have industries that are going to crop up in four different categories. One is the safety tester, and they have to be independent, stand alone, they can’t have any other role in the process. They can’t be a physician, they can’t be involved in the dispensaries, they can’t be the farmer/grower/processor. Number two is the grower, number three is the processor who takes the raw material and puts it into the pill or the oil, and number four is the dispensary, which is kind of like a pharmacy, since pharmacies aren’t allowed to do this under federal law. Again, the safety tester must be independent, numbers two, three and four can be independent, or they can have one, two or three of those licenses.
The local law enforcement will have access to everything, State police will have access to everything. By everything, I mean they’ve got access to the facility. One of the things I’d like to see is, we have marijuana in Kentucky and a lot of our sick people are already using it. I want to get them out of those dark alleys, and I want them to go somewhere that is bright and where the cops have the keys.
Q: Does this include marijuana in food form?
A: It does, but, and this is a very important but, it cannot be in any form that is attractive to children. So, there are no gummies, no suckers, or anything of that nature. What “attractive to children” means is going to be defined more by the regulating body. People ask me about brownies and so forth. I’m not opining on that because I don’t know how important that is as a means to get the medicine in the body.
Q: What is required from the dispensary in the form of training?
A: The dispensary has to be trained much like a pharmacist tech has to be trained today. We want pharmacists to be involved in some way, but there’s a little bit of hesitation there because some pharmacists are skittish. In some states they don’t want to be involved because it could perhaps jeopardize their DEA license, but in five others, pharmacists have to control it. So, we’re trying to come up with a way to have pharmacists involved, so they can oversee the training in a more direct way and also make sure patients aren’t having medications that contraindicate. So the training, I think, is going to be from the Board of Pharmacy.
The legislation, HB 136, has not yet been assigned to a committee. A similar measure sponsored by Nemes last year, passed the House Judiciary Committee on a nearly unanimous vote, but never saw action on the House floor.