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Kentucky's criminal ban on medical marijuana challenged with lawsuit

[JURIST] Three Kentuckians filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] on Wednesday against Governor Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear [official websites] challenging the state's criminal ban on medical marijuana. Dan Seum Jr., 59, Amy Stalker, 37, and Danny Belcher, 69, claim they rely on medical marijuana [AP report] for relief of ailments such as chronic pain and irritable bowl syndrome. Stalker, who moved back to Kentucky to help support her ailing mother, was prescribed marijuana while living in Colorado. Since moving, she has struggled to maintain her health and seeks the ability to be able to openly communicate with her doctors as people in many other states can. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to permit the use and distribution of medical marijuana. The suit focuses on the assertion that the medical marijuana ban violates states constitutional privacy protections between a doctor and patient. Additionally, according to the complaint, medical marijuana supplants the use of more dangerous and addictive drugs such as opioids. In 2015 Kentucky had the third highest death rate of opioid overdoses in the country.

As more states have enacted legislation legalizing marijuana, many lawmakers have become concerned by the anti-marijuana policies promoted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions [official profile]. Earlier this week, Sessions asked congress [WP report] to undo the federal protections on medical marijuana. In June the California State Assembly [official website] passed a bill [JURIST report] on Thursday with the bare minimum 41 out of 80 votes that, if passed by the Senate, will prohibit state and local authorities from assisting federal agencies in the enforcement of marijuana laws without a court order. Before Sessions's confirmation, Hilary Bricken of the Canna Law Group [advocacy website] wrote [JURIST op-ed] about how the Trump administration could impact the status of cannabis at the state level. In April, marijuana advocates at an annual gathering in Washington D.C. discussed [NPR report] their uneasiness with Sessions' positions. Elsewhere in North America, marijuana legalization has become a priority. The Mexico Chamber of Deputies [official website] approved [JURIST report] a bill in April allowing the use, production and distribution of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. Also in April Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker [official website] signed [JURIST report] Senate Bill 10, legalizing the medicinal use of a marijuana extract, into law. In March a government official from Canada announced [JURIST report] the country's intention to legalize recreational marijuana by July 2018.

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