Smoke-free school campuses and medical marijuana to be health focus in 2017 session

As the 2017 session approaches, Kentucky doctor and state Sen. Ralph Alvarado said he is looking to make school campuses smoke-free and he expects the discussion over legalizing marijuana for medical use to continue but doesn’t see a resolution just yet.

In an interview with The Bottom Line, Sen. Alvarado said he is working to introduce a new type of smoke-free bill this year as he has heard from opponents of the legislation that they do not want to see private business restricted.

Instead, Alvarado explained that he wants to take the step to make publicly-funded buildings such as school campuses and court houses smoke-free in an effort to cut down on the cost and harm it is doing to the state.

“I would think making our school campuses smoke-free, all of our elementary, middle, high schools and even our universities, and making all of our government buildings smoke-free would be something we could get done and we can all agree on,” Alvarado said. “

Many presentations being heard by legislators on the Health and Welfare Committee have revolved increasingly around medical marijuana in recent years, with at least two testimonies on the topic happening this summer.

When asked if he feels the needle will be moved on this topic during the 2017 session, Alvarado said he believes legislation will be introduced but noted there are still many concerns over the idea.

In discussing the possibility of the state passing some form of medical marijuana legislation, Alvarado recognized that it is a “touchy” issue and that there are currently some federal restrictions that complicate such legislation but he did say he could see a path forward for medicinal use in the future.

“As a physician, I am open-minded to it. And the definition of what medical marijuana is the big debate,” Alvarado said (at 1:45 in the video). “If you are talking about using inhalers or pills used in a medication form, of course. If they have benefit medically, I think doctors are always open to that. But the debate is we need more research.”

Alvarado went on to discuss what he has seen in his experience with marijuana in patients (at 2:30 in the video) and said there needs to be more serious studies on the issue to figure out how best to utilize it and then he feels it will be easier to get legislation passed on the issue.

Watch the interview segment with Alvarado here:

Check back on The Bottom Line in the coming weeks to see more of the interview with Alvarado including his thoughts on the governor’s Medicaid waiver and what he expects to see from a tax reform discussion in the state.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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