Gubernatorial candidates exchange jabs over health care, marijuana

By Cheyene Miller

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Health care dominated Sunday night’s gubernatorial debate at Eastern Kentucky University, and both candidates strayed from party lines on the issue of medical marijuana.

“I would in fact sign such legislation into law,” Republican candidate Matt Bevin said in reference to a bill legalizing medical marijuana. He said research shows marijuana can treat patients with epilepsy and other disorders and that these patients desperately need help.

Democratic candidate Jack Conway said he would not support a bill legalizing medical marijuana, and that doing so could lead to an increase in recreational drug abuse. He said the Kentucky Medical Association has not advocated medical marijuana and he wouldn’t consider it until they did.

“Medical marijuana is the only medicine I can think of that would be prescribed in joints,” Conway said.

The candidates also sparred over the Medicaid expansion, which gave health care to 400,000 Kentuckians.

“The people that are enrolled now will be enrolled in the future,” said Conway, who called Kynect “a shining example” of implementing an insurance exchange on the state level. He said there are too many people on Medicaid, “but to kick them off now would be callous.”

Bevin said Conway was being dishonest with voters and to call Kynect a shining example was “another blatant lie.”

“It is not a shining example, it is not working,” said Bevin, who said the implementation of the Affordable Care Act actually cost many people to lose their health insurance plans.

Bevin posited seeking a federal waiver in the form of a grant, an idea Conway criticized as being fiscally irresponsible.

“It won’t save us any money,” Conway said. “That’s just a red herring.”

Conway said he would look into restoring Bucks for Brains funding as well as restoring some of the funding to higher education since Kentucky’s budget is projecting a $219 million surplus.

“I don’t want to overpromise and under deliver though,” Conway said.

Bevin advocated outcomes based funding and giving incentives for students seeking careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

“If you are going to ask for taxpayer money to subsidize that education … then it should be used for things that are going to be to the best benefit of the taxpayers themselves,” Bevin said to reporters after the debate.

On the issue of safety on college campuses, Bevin said he supports the right to concealed carry on campuses while Conway advocated detailed contingency plans by university police departments.

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.