Local Experts Discuss Medical Marijuana

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- The Kentucky House Committee on Health and Welfare is set to hold a public hearing Thursday at noon in Frankfort on a bill that would allow medical patients suffering from certain conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Local experts weighed in on the issue.

House bill 350, the Cannabis Compassion Act, is the first bill to reach the house in Kentucky that addresses the use of medical marijuana, but one of its opponents thinks it's just one step closer to something else.

"Medical marijuana is really just the first major step in legalization of marijuana," said Warren County Drug Task Force Director and Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association Executive Director Tommy Loving.

Loving says he bases that belief on what has happened in states like Colorado. He also says one complication of legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes is the current lack of means to gauge a person's level of intoxication.

"To my knowledge, there's not a definitive test to say a specific level in your system compares to like a .08 with alcohol," said Loving.

Loving says if isolated from THC, the component that causes what many refer to as a "high," the drug could be useful, while a local pain specialist says without more research, he's not convinced the plant would be helpful to his patients.

"I think when you start looking in the area of pain, there has been quite a few studies done, and there definitely hasn't been anything definitive that says it is safe and works well. The safety and efficacy of it, are still limited at this point," said Interventional Pain Specialist Dr. Christian Unick.

A local optometrist says the U.S. is behind in those studies, and questions why more has not been done to test the usefulness and safety of the plant in the medical field, when other prescription drugs are also derived from plants.

"Are you going to say we can't have any poppies because heroin can come from it? That's where morphine comes from and look at all the good they do with morphine and all the opiates in it," said Dr. Unick.

Dr. Tucker says the important difference between recreational marijuana and medical marijuana is the isolation of compounds within the plant, which could allow scientists to create drugs that benefit patients while removing THC.

"What we're talking about is isolating compounds, and with peer-reviewed science, determining what's safe and effective, and if it's going to benefit people out there, and it's safe and effective, that's a slam dunk. That's something that should be in use," said Vision Source Optometrist Dr. Joe Tucker.

Something that could be used to help his patients suffering from glaucoma.

"If we can get an active ingredient in an eye drop, we can administer it with an eye drop too," said Dr. Tucker.

Dr. Tucker thinks the method of administration could be tailored to the illness. House Bill 350 was introduced by Democratic State Representative Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville. A similar bill was introduced in the state senate earlier this year by Democratic State Senator Perry Clark of Louisville.

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