FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - A bill legalizing cannabis oil for some medical purposes cleared its last major hurdle Wednesday, and legislative leaders predicted it will await Gov. Steve Beshear's signature by next week.
Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, passed unanimously in the House Judiciary Committee. The measure would allow the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky hospitals to use so-called marijuana oil to treat seizure patients.
Experts have testified in front of legislative panels that the oil has very low levels of THC, the chemical agent in marijuana, and can be produced from the marijuana or hemp plant.
"I'm thrilled," Denton said. "I'm thrilled for the children and adults that this bill can help."
After the vote, Denton embraced Rita Wooton, a Leslie County mother whose son suffers up to 40 seizures a day.
The family has considered moving to states where the cannabis oil is legal after a doctor recommended it from Wooton's 4-year-old son, Eli.
"When I started this roller coaster ride two months ago, I never thought this would be feasible for any of us," Wooton said. "We're just really super excited that this is coming here -- soon."
The bill now moves to the House. Speaker Greg Stumbo said he would vote for it, and didn't see any obstacles to its passage.
It would be the first time the General Assembly has approved legislation allowing the marijuana plant to be used for medical purposes.
It is more limited -- and far less controversial -- than the medical marijuana bills that have died in the legislature this year.
"This bill is not those bills," said Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, a medical marijuana opponent who voted for the cannabis oil bill. "We need to be clear about that."
The legislation is named the Clara Madeline Gilliam Act, after a Western Kentucky girl who suffers from severe seizures.
Patients would take the oil in drops placed under the tongue, Denton said.
If the governor signs the bill, Denton said she didn't know when the university hospitals would be able to get the oil to begin treatment.
Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.