Although the ongoing national debate about marijuana’s legal limbo status persists, new survey data indicates a vast majority of Kentuckians support legalization of the drug solely for medicinal purposes.
The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, found that 78 percent of Kentucky adults were in favor of allowing residents to use medical marijuana should it be prescribed by their physician.
Furthermore, the poll found about 26 percent of adults favored a measure that would allow Kentuckians to buy and use marijuana recreationally, while about 38 percent of adults did not agree with using marijuana for any reason, according to a news release.
“Our Kentucky Health Issues Poll is designed to be informative to Kentucky policymakers,” said Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “Over the past several years, bills dealing with legalization of marijuana have been filed in the Kentucky General Assembly. This research gives policy makers a snapshot of Kentuckians’ views on this issue and should be helpful as lawmakers consider issues for the 2014 legislative session.”
The tide of pro-legalization is making its way around the country as about 17 states allow medicinal marijuana use, while three state have legalized the federal Schedule 1 controlled substance for recreational purposes.
The debate has made its way into Illinois where on Friday the Senate approved a plan that would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana from a state-run dispensary to patients with terminal illnesses or debilitating medical conditions, according to reports. The bill awaits Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.
When asked who should decide if marijuana should be used for medicinal purposes, almost an equal split of respondents said voters at 45 percent versus lawmakers at 46 percent, while about 6 percent answered doctors.
Dr. Laxmaiah Manchikanti, board chairman and CEO of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians and medical director of the Pain Management Center of Paducah, stated none of those parties listed — lawmakers, voters or physicians — have enough information on the issue to make a decision, and it should be left to the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration.
“Even though pro-marijuana users are winning, there is significant and valid argument for not legalizing marijuana for any type of use,” Manchikanti wrote in an email.
Manchikanti highlighted marijuana as a gateway to the use of other drugs, and said approval for medical marijuana in situations like cancer-related nausea, vomiting or other serious disease will open the doors for not only physicians, but all types of providers and special medical clinics to treat any type of pain and discomfort.
Ultimately, the medicinal legalization would lead to recreational use, Manchikanti argued.
“Overall, legalizing marijuana for any purpose only helps a very small proportion of patients, but legalizing marijuana will increase its recreational use by various means, making a few people rich, and many others poor; taking revenues away from their essential uses, and, finally, will cause strain on the medical profession, especially specialties such as pain management,” Manchikanti stated.
The KHIP was conducted between Sept. 20 and Oct. 14 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,680 adults across the state were interviewed via telephone. The poll has a margin of error of ±2.5 percent.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.