source: Written by Gregory A. Hall The Courier-Journal

FRANKFORT, KY. — A Kentucky Senate committee passed a medical marijuana bill on Wednesday limited to trials of the plant’s oil — as parents of children with severe medical conditions pleaded with lawmakers to do something to help.

The vote on Senate Bill 124 comes a year after the Kentucky legislature approved a law to allow industrial hemp, but the bill on cannabis oil is the first foray into the more controversial world of medical marijuana.

Sponsor Julie Denton, R-Louisville, acknowledged the complaints of senators who voted for her bill even though it didn’t go as far into medical marijuana as they wanted, saying she’d like the bill to be broader but the limited approach is all that she believes can pass both chambers of the legislature and actually help people right away.

The bill would allow the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville’s medical hospitals to conduct research and would allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with marijuana oil.

Only Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, voted against the bill. He did not explain his vote and left the meeting before it was finished.

The committee heard testimony on the bill a week ago, including Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer’s endorsement of the measure. On Wednesday, Denton took the vote before hearing more testimony, saying she didn’t want something someone said to change the outcome.

Rita Wooton of Hyden cried as she testified about how she and her husband have tried to help their 4-year-old son Eli, who has a rare form of epilepsy. A neurologist who treats him at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital suggested they go somewhere to try marijuana oil.

Wooton said the family has considered going somewhere to obtain marijuana oil but is afraid of bringing it back to Kentucky and facing potential arrest.

Lawmakers suggested the Wootons break the law. Sen. Julian Carroll, a Frankfort Democrat, former governor and attorney, said he would represent them. Denton said no one is enforcing the law as it relates to marijuana oil.

But one parent begged for approval of a broader medical marijuana bill. Johnie Collier of Paducah said the oil won’t help his 2-year-old daughter Lola, who has a severe form of irritable bowel syndrome and whose bodily waste is toxic to her skin.

“I think the baby steps are too small,” he said.

Reporter Gregory A. Hall can be reached at (502) 582-4087. Follow him on Twitter at @gregoryahall.

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