Editor’s Note: This Column was written in January when the bills mentioned were still active. Neither HB 22 or HB 47 made it through committee. A more restrictive SB 47 was passed in the KY Senate. The legislative session ends March 30.
24-year-old Logan County resident Tyra Hubbard, died of colon cancer one week before she was due in court for the possession of a “small baggie” of marijuana and a grinder.
Diagnosed with stage three cancer in February 2022, Tyra smoked marijuana to “increase her appetite and to help with pain,” Tyra’s mom, Sheryl Hubbard says.
In Kentucky, possession of up to eight ounces comes with a maximum penalty of 45 days in prison. Possession of paraphernalia is a maximum sentence of one year.
Tyra died on October 4, 2022. She was due to appear in court the following week.
“If she had of survived, she would have been standing in court with terminal cancer… for a small bag of marijuana that she used for self-care,” Hubbard says.
“My daughter suffered, and she had this [trial] hanging over her head when she died.”
In November 2022, just over a month after Tyra’s death, Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order allowing patients with specific medical conditions to receive pardon for possession of marijuana.
“I can’t put into words how grateful we are for the governor,” Kristin Wilcox, co-founder of the nonprofit organization Kentucky Moms for Medical Marijuana says, “but the [executive order] does fall short.”
The executive order, which came into effect January 1, 2023, states that patients must lawfully purchase medical cannabis in a jurisdiction outside of Kentucky. They must also be able to provide written certification from a healthcare provider.
The closest marijuana dispensary to the Hubbard family is a three-hour drive.
“Kentucky is a poor state,” Hubbard says.
“I can’t travel to Ohio or Illinois with a stage four cancer patient… [for] us normal folk, that ain’t going to happen.”
Hubbard says doctors prescribed her daughter opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and the synthetic opioid, fentanyl but, “none of the pain medicine would work.”
“I saw how much [marijuana] helped my daughter… but the court system kept [her charge] hanging over her head.”
Legislators have not had to “sit and watch their child deteriorate because they are in so much pain and can’t eat,” says Hubbard, who wants legislators to do “what they have to do to help people, to help my kid… a beautiful soul who is gone.
“A light in this world is gone.”
With the opening of the 2023 legislative session in Frankfort on January 3, some state representatives, as well as the Kentucky Moms, are pushing for change.
Rep. Rachel Roberts filed House Bill 22, which calls for the legalization and regulation of cannabis, and Rep. Nima Kulkarni introduced House Bill 47, which relates to full decriminalization.
“It could be a veteran with PTSD, a baby with epilepsy, or a terminal cancer patient,” Wilcox said.
“People who need this come from all walks of life.”
But as Wilcox says, patients who use marijuana for “medical purposes are criminalized… [and have] to deal with the court system.”
At four months old, Shelby, Wilcox’s own daughter was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a medication-resistent form of epilepsy that can affect childhood development.
Doctors prescribed Valium in conjunction with the antiepileptic drug Depakote, which “seemed to help,” Wilcox said.
But she was still having tons of seizures and was deteriorating both physically and cognitively.”
It was only when they started a clinical trial for the cannabis derived drug Epidiolex that she says they saw real “cognitive gains.”
“The problem, though, is that this medication costs $45 thousand a year and without Medicaid, we can’t afford that.”
Shelby is now 17 years old and has been taking Depakote for 15 years.
“It has really taken a toll on her body,” Wilcox said. “Her bones are brittle and her teeth chip easily.”
“Medical marijuana is really the hope that we need.”
Wilcox and The Kentucky Moms for Medical Marijuana want lawmakers to understand that legalizing medical marijuana would mean “supporting patients… who deserve compassion and dignity.”
“We are fierce and strong” Wilcox says “but we lead with our hearts.”
“We’re parents” Wilcox says “and we have this fire to do everything in our power to help our children.”
Kentucky Moms for Medical Marijuana are calling for Kentuckians to “[speak to] their legislators and elected officials and push them to get this done for us, [because] it’s beyond time.”
“We’re going to fight till the bitter end to get this passed,” Wilcox says “you’re not gonna mess with the Kentucky Moms.” •