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Medical marijuana bill clears Kentucky House panel

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A measure to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky passed a House committee Thursday, but whether the issue will come up for a vote in front of the full House was unclear.

Known as the Cannabis Compassion Act, the perennial bill is sponsored this year by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, who called the historic passage “a miracle.”

“It was so rewarding to be able to offer the folks who are suffering from so many different medical conditions a little bit of hope,” said the Louisville Democrat.

The bill’s only opposition in committee came from Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, who expressed concerns about the danger of “unleashing a Schedule 1 drug on our communities” and that not enough is known about the drug to support Kentucky research on it.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo later said he was “open to the concept,” but said he didn’t know if the measure would get a vote in the Democratic-led House where the bill is now headed for consideration.

“I think a lot of members are becoming more open to it,” he said, “as we hear the stories from people in our districts that have family members that are positively affected by the use of some of these products.”

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Tobacco plant expansion draws praise from governor

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has been at the forefront of pushing initiatives aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and improving the health of a state plagued by some of the nation’s worst disease rates.

On Thursday, his tone shifted as he praised the economic benefits from a tobacco company’s plans to expand its western Kentucky processing operations for smokeless tobacco products.

The approximately $118 million investment by U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. will create 42 more jobs at its Hopkinsville plant, which now employs 90 full-time workers. The company plans to build a new processing facility and add on to its existing plant there. Its brands include Copenhagen and Skoal.

Beshear said the investment will make a “significant economic impact” on the state.

“The company has found great success in the commonwealth for decades, and this expansion is further proof that Kentucky is a great place to grow a business,” the governor said.

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