FRANKFORT, Ky. — Medical marijuana advocates have won an initial victory in trying to legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky. A legalization measure cleared the House Judiciary Committee on a 17-1 vote Wednesday.

The committee room was filled with advocates who have pressed for years to legalize medical marijuana for people battling chronic pain and debilitating medical conditions. 

Eric Crawford, a medical cannabis advocate, has been in a wheelchair for 26 years following a car crash. His testimony brought many to tears.

"I'm in this wheelchair for a reason and God isn't punishing me. I am blessed, so I feel as if I can help others who are too afraid to speak or can't get out to speak. So, it's just other people have helped me. So, I want to help other people, and if all I can do is use my voice to do it, that's what I got to do," Crawford said.

While opponents credited the other side for their thoughtful debate, some questioned why House Bill 136 did not do more to get racial minorities involved in the business of medical marijuana or why this bill was as strict as sponsor Rep. Jason Nemes (R) of District 33 touted when comparing it to other state's plans.

Rep. Nemes challenged lawmakers to put themselves in the shoes of patients and families desperate for relief who have no legal options now.

“I please think of this question when you cast your vote. What would you do? I would break the law in a New York minute,” Rep. Nemes said.

According to Rep. Nemes, labeling is one of seven key protections which will help those with serious, painful medical conditions. Only those diagnosed with a list of specific conditions will be eligible for treatment with cannabis for medical reasons and smoking medical cannabis will be prohibited.

Rep. Kim Moser (R) of District 64, a former neonatal intensive care unit nurse, questioned the science.

“It’s not a medication yet, but I’m not sure there are medicinal properties and I think that we just need a little bit more clarity,” Rep. Moser said.

The bill now heads to the full House. Rep. Jason Nemes, a leading sponsor of the bill, predicted it has enough support to pass the House. It would then move to the Senate.

More from WHAS11:

►Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.  

Have a news tip? Email assign@whas11.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.