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McConnell, Grimes Split on Marijuana Legalization Debate

Marijuana accessories are pictured in Terrapin Care Station, a marijuana dispensary, in Boulder, Colo. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The national discussion about legalizing marijuana has now surfaced in Kentucky's Senate race.  

A day after Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes encouraged a conversation about it, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his opposition to following Colorado's lead and legalizing marijuana more broadly in an interview on a local radio station Friday.  

"I'm against legalizing marijuana," the Republican said. "Certainly it's not in the same category as heroin, but I think to begin ... to sort of send the message that we're giving up, you know, that this is just the way it's going to be, then one thing leads to another and pretty soon ... you completely transform your society in a way that I think certainly most Kentuckians would not agree with."  

Kentucky has a well-documented heroin epidemic that has been widely reported to have worsened as the state government has made it more difficult to get access to painkillers.  

"I don't think an answer to this, honestly, is to go in a direction of legalizing any of these currently illegal drugs. I mean, it just further makes it just like we're sort of going to give up," McConnell said. "This whole, you know, movement in various parts of the country is a big mistake. I mean, you can argue about that if you want to, but the message that goes out when you do that is we don't really care about this."  

"I think rolling over and giving up is really not a solution," McConnell said.  

The McConnell comments on WVLK radio in Lexington came just a day after Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, told Kentucky Sports Radio she favored a discussion about pot legalization.  

"I would want to have the discussion, and I think it's worthwhile to bring the experts together and talk about the reclassification, especially for medical purposes," Grimes said, as the Herald-Leader reported . Grimes cited arguments in favor of reclassifying marijuana or cannabis oil for medical purposes at the state legislature.  

"I'm in favor of having the discussion especially to reclassify the use of marijuana. We haven't had a senator that’s even wanted to have those discussions though," Grimes said.  

In Colorado, the marijuana experiment is being allowed to run its course without being a heated political issue .  

Kentucky's Senate race is rated as Leans Republican  by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.  

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