The legalization of medical marijuana has been the subject of heavy debate in Kentucky legislature since the election of Matt Bevin in 2015. Governor Bevin had expressed support for legalizing medical cannabis use during his campaign, but since then has condemned it and said that he will veto any legislature in favor of legalizing marijuana in any capacity.
As with most things, Bevin is being unreasonable. Legalizing medical marijuana has many benefits—both economic and health-related—that far outweigh any negative impact that it would potentially have.
To date, 31 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Since then, we have seen robust economic growth in these states, due to an increase in tax revenue.
The best example of this is in Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana both medically and recreationally. In 2015, the marijuana business in Colorado was valued at $2.4 billion between taxes collected, jobs created and sales made. In 2017, the Colorado state government collected over $76 million in marijuana tax revenue, half of which went into the state’s education programs. Even a fraction of this income in Kentucky would be helpful in our current poor fiscal state.
The positive impacts of legalizing marijuana for medical use extends past purely economic benefits. Medical marijuana has been shown to be effective against many different mental and physical illnesses.
The most common use of medical cannabis is pain relief. This can be applied in many different contexts, including in treatment for cancer, chronic pain, and epileptic seizures. It has also been found to reduce anxiety and depression as well as the effects of PTSD, which affects many of the 302,000 veterans that reside in Kentucky. This is just a small fraction of the medical conditions that experts suspect cannabis could be useful in fighting.
Research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association has also shown that smoking marijuana does not have the same detrimental effects on lung capacity as cigarettes and cigars, and in fact may improve lung function. With so many medical benefits, it seems only logical that Kentucky pass legislation that will help many people treat many illnesses.
One recent application of medical marijuana that is particularly pertinent to Kentucky is its potential in treating opioid addiction. A study done in 2014 by the University of Pennsylvania found that the rate of opioid overdose was 25 percent less in states with legal medical marijuana than in states without it.
In 2016, a second study from the University of Michigan found a 64 percent reduction in opioid use by 185 medical marijuana patients. Health officials in New York have also thrown support behind medical marijuana use as an alternative to opioid prescription.
The opioid crisis in Kentucky is growing, and it is our legislators’ responsibility to do as much as they can to combat it. Legalizing medical marijuana is a step that they can take and it may be the key to reducing opioid use and overdoses in Kentucky over the next few years.
Clearly, the legalization of medical marijuana in Kentucky would be incredibly beneficial in many capacities. It is time for our lawmakers to realize the potential that legalization has and take this step toward improving the economy of our state and the health of our citizens.