Democratic Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky on Tuesday signed an executive order authorizing the use of medical marijuana for some patients. Under the order, Kentuckians with certain specified serious medical conditions will be able to use medical cannabis beginning next year.
“Kentuckians suffering from chronic and terminal conditions are going to be able to get the treatment they need without living in fear of a misdemeanor,” Beshear said in a statement from the governor’s office. “With 37 states already legalizing medical cannabis and 90% of Kentucky adults supporting it, I am doing what I can to provide access and relief to those who meet certain conditions and need it to better enjoy their life, without pain.”
Beshear’s executive order authorizes patients with at least one of 21 medical conditions including cancer, terminal illness, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder to use medical marijuana. To comply with the executive order, medical cannabis must be purchased in a state that has legalized and regulates marijuana and the patient must retain the receipt. Possession of medical marijuana is limited to eight ounces, which is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony for marijuana possession in Kentucky. Patients are also required to have certification from a licensed medical provider that shows the patient has been diagnosed with at least one of the specified medical conditions.
The governor added that guidelines were being developed for law enforcement to help officers quickly determine who is eligible to use and possess medical marijuana. Beshear also emphasized that his executive order is not a substitute for “much-needed legislation to fully legalize medical cannabis.” The governor plans to work with lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session to advocate for comprehensive medical marijuana legalization, “which would further provide relief for those suffering, fuel job growth and support Kentucky’s farmers.”
Panel Finds Strong Support For Legalizing Marijuana
The executive order follows the failure of the state legislature to pass legislation earlier this year and Beshear’s creation of the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee in June. The panel traveled throughout the state, hosting town hall meetings to listen to Kentuckians’ views on the legalization of medical marijuana. In addition to the town hall meetings, the state’s medical cannabis website allowed Kentuckians to submit their opinions online. The website received 3,539 comments, 98.64% of which expressed support for legalizing medical cannabis in the state. On September 30, Beshear released a summary of the committee’s work that showed a majority of Kentuckians agree that it is past time for the state to take action on legalizing medical cannabis.
“Our committee met good people all across the commonwealth who are suffering from terrible chronic conditions that are relieved by medical cannabis,” said Kerry Harvey, co-chair of the committee and secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. “This is real-world experience, not conjecture. The Governor’s action will improve the quality of life for these Kentuckians, but more should be done in the coming legislative session.”
“It took bravery to overcome anxiety and often physical pain to stand up at a town hall meeting, but people did it to make sure their story was heard. Not only for themselves, but also for the benefit of family members, friends and others facing a similar condition,” added Ray Perry, co-chair of the committee and secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet. “Each story made it clear that people are finding real relief from chronic conditions with medical cannabis.”
Second Executive Order Regulates Delta-8 THC in Kentucky
Beshear also signed a second executive order on Tuesday that regulates delta-8 THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid that can be manufactured from legal hemp. The governor noted that delta-8 is not a controlled substance in Kentucky or at the federal level, and a court has ruled that the substance is legal in Kentucky.
“Right now, there are no checks on how it is packaged and sold. We must establish a regulatory structure to ensure that Delta 8 is sold and purchased safely in the commonwealth,” Beshear said. “The structure can and will also serve as a template for when the General Assembly fully legalizes medical cannabis. That means we can learn in real-time, train our people and be ready to go.”
The governor’s office noted that a total of 37 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have approved legislation to allow cannabis for medical use by qualified individuals. Additionally, Kentucky’s neighboring states of Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and West Virginia have legalized medical cannabis.
“This is not a red or blue issue,” Beshear said. “It is about our people and helping those who are in pain and suffering.”
Beshear’s executive order to legalize marijuana is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2023.