LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Right now, 502 Hemp and Wellness sells CBD products. If the state legislature approves House Bill 136, which would legalize medical marijuana for certain conditions, Dee Dee Taylor would love to start selling medical marijuana products as well.

What You Need To Know

  • Dee Dee Taylor, a CBD store owner, would like to sell medical marijuana product if it were to become legal in Kentucky

  • HB 136 would legalize medical marijuana for certain conditions

  • A similar bill cleared the House in 2020, but died in the Senate

  • Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a previous opponent of medical marijuana, just voiced support for it this week

She has followed the attempts to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky over the years and is cautiously optimistic it could happen in the 2022 General Assembly.

“I want to be hopefully optimistic it will pass this year, but I am also a realist and know how these things play out. I am all for it obviously for many, many reasons. It needs to happen. I just worry it is still not going to pass the Senate,” said Taylor, the 502 Hemp and Wellness founder and CEO.

This week, a key player, Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, endorsed HB 136, which would legalize medical marijuana for certain conditions. Sen. Westerfield had previously opposed medical marijuana. 

“I continue to have concerns about the risk of increased access to marijuana, particularly among youth and young adults whom it remains a recreational and gateway drug. I also have concerns about the precedent we’re setting by ignoring federal law. However, I’ve heard too many stories, in my district and out, from those long suffering and their loved ones left behind, that marijuana brought comfort and relief when nothing else worked,” Sen. Westerfield said in a statement shared on Twitter.

Historically, the state House had seemed more keen to it as the Chamber passed a medical marijuana bill in 2020, but it stalled in the Senate that year. With the support of Sen. Westerfield, bill sponsor Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) said he feels more people in the Senate are coming around to the idea.

“I think as people talk more to their constituents, they are more open to the issue,” Rep. Nemes said. “And they see many other states, including very conservative and southern states, adopt medical marijuana and the world doesn’t end; that opens more eyes that weren’t open before.”

Every business owner has a story about why they got started. For Taylor, 502 Hemp and Wellness started from her personal journey helping her husband, John Taylor. For years, he was having two to four seizures per month.

“If you’ve never seen someone have a seizure, I pray you don’t have to. They’re horrific,” she said. “They had him on up to 28 pills a day. The pills, the prescription pills, were killing him. We had to find a safe alternative.”

She said he turned to CBD oil. Soon after using that, he had five seizure-free years. In 2014, he became one of the first licensed processors in the state. Taylor got into the business not long after, stocking her shelves with many of her husband’s products.

“I feel like this is my calling to help others with good hemp products,” she said.

One of her employees, Beth Pinotti, was working as a registered nurse before joining the team. 

“I was looking for a way to help people with more holistic medicine. Learning about CBD was amazing,” Pinotti said.

They have been paying close attention to this legislative session as Taylor would like to stock her shelves with medical marijuana products in addition to her current CBD selection should medical marijuana become legal in Kentucky. 

House Bill 136 would apply to a few conditions. One of them would be cancer. Wanting to find more solutions for cancer patients was a driving factor behind Pinotti coming to 502 Hemp and Wellness.

“I’ve had a lot of losses in my family with cancer and friends and so forth. Having this product as an alternative seems to help cancer patients through chemotherapy, with nausea and appetite stimulation,” Pinotti said. “It’s always been that way, but we weren’t allowed to even access this for those purposes.”

The other conditions included in HB 136 are epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder could be added.

”I have PTSD veterans who use these products. It helps them with the everyday struggle of just getting out of the bed for what they’ve seen and done and have had to do,” Taylor said.

While Taylor would like to see medical marijuana legalization in Kentucky, she has concerns about challenges that could come along with trying to sell it.

“I would love to be able to sell those products. My fear is they would make the licensing so expensive I wouldn’t be able to afford it or there will be so much red tape and hoops you have to jump through to get it,” said Taylor.

Under the current wording of HB 136, it would cost a store owner like her at least $10,000 to get licensed as a dispensary. More details regarding licensing fees can be found in the full bill text.

If someone were to want to buy medical marijuana, they would need a patient card, which would cost $60 based on current wording of the bill.

“We also have to worry about banking issues. We would not be able to take credit cards anymore,” Taylor said.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. That means stores that sell it, even in states where it is legal, have to use cash. The Safe Banking Act aims to change that across the country, but it is not yet a law.