In a significant marijuana victory, Kentucky stands ready to become the latest state to legalize medical marijuana for adult use. It’s a significant moment for the Southern state, whose efforts to legalize marijuana in the past have always fallen short of the goal.
Pro-cannabis reform Governor Andy Beshear says he is ready to put pen to paper and give Kentucky residents the legal right to seek medicinal marijuana for specific ailments.
Kentucky Scores a Medical Marijuana Victory
In a 66 to 33 vote, the Kentucky House of Representatives approved a Senate-passed measure to legalize the sale and possession of medicinal marijuana. With the final vote and the signature of Gov. Andy Beshear (D), Kentucky will become the 38th state in the United States with comprehensive medical marijuana legislation.
The passage of this medical marijuana measure is monumental for Kentucky. Since 2020, the Kentucky House of Representatives moved medical marijuana legislation forward twice, only to have the bill fail in the state Senate.
It seems likely that the key to Senate Bill 47’s victory was bipartisan support. It was a group of Republican and Democratic state Senators who sponsored SB 47 across party lines. One of medical marijuana’s staunchest detractors, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R), who has previously opposed legalization efforts, voted to support the bill in committee. He signaled that he supported the new measure because of its “narrowly focused approach.”
The measure allows patients with certain qualifying medical conditions to obtain a doctor’s order for medicinal cannabis. Qualifying conditions include cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder. After passing the Senate, the bill went to the House, where Representatives could weigh in on the measure.
The legislation hit Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk for final approval. Gov. Beshear has made his stance on cannabis legalization clear and has publicly committed to working to bring legalized medical marijuana to the Bluegrass State. In November, Gov. Beshear signed a pair of executive orders allowing qualified patients to possess up to eight ounces of medicinal cannabis legally obtained from dispensaries in other states. He also regulated the sale of delta-8 THC products to ensure they are packaged and sold safely in Kentucky.
The Limitations of SB 47
Although SB 47 paves the way for medical marijuana sales in Kentucky, it does include a few specific limitations. Patients with qualifying medical conditions can receive doctor recommendations to obtain medicinal cannabis. However, smoking marijuana will remain prohibited. Patients would only be allowed to access raw cannabis flower for vaporization. Additionally, home cultivation will not be allowed.
For a patient to obtain medical marijuana, they must complete an in-person office visit. Patient registration lasts 60 days, and medical marijuana patients can only possess a 30-day supply at home. The limit is a 10-day supply on their person.
The new law also caps THC at 35 percent for flower and 70 percent for concentrates. Cannabis edibles cannot exceed 10 milligrams of THC per serving.
Finally, the state Board of Physicians and State Board of Nursing will certify practitioners who can recommend medicinal cannabis. Medicinal cannabis will be exempt from Kentucky sales and excise taxes.
Before passing the measure, House members blocked consideration of an amendment to the bill, restricting the available forms of medicinal cannabis. The amendment would have also prevented cannabis regulators from adding new qualifying medical conditions without lawmakers’ approval.
What Changed for Kentucky?
Medical marijuana legalization efforts have failed before. What makes this legislative session so different? Medicinal marijuana advocates in Kentucky stepped up their efforts to pressure lawmakers on both sides to reform cannabis laws in the Bluegrass State this legislative session. Kentucky Moms for Medical Cannabis and Kentucky NORML aggressively stated medical marijuana efforts could no longer fall short.
Gov. Andy Beshear himself criticized the legislature for failing to pass common-sense medicinal marijuana legislation in recent years and calling efforts to halt legalization, obstructing the will of the people. Some polling suggests that as many as 90 percent of Kentucky adults support legalizing medical cannabis in the state. Gov. Beshear has long voiced his support for broad marijuana legalization, noting that it is time Kentucky joins much of the rest of the United States in supporting medicinal cannabis.
Gov. Beshear notes how legalizing medicinal cannabis may help better position Kentucky farmers to grow and sell marijuana in Kentucky and across the border to other legalized states. In addition to the potential economic benefits, the governor and other lawmakers hope legalizing medicinal cannabis will help the state combat the growing opioid epidemic.
Mounting pressure from advocate organizations, the governor, and Kentucky voters may have been just what lawmakers needed to spur them into action and vote in favor of legalizing medicinal marijuana.
What Comes Next for Kentucky Patients?
Unfortunately, the legalization of medicinal cannabis products is only step one. There is still a long process before patients in Kentucky can walk into a medicinal marijuana dispensary and receive the therapeutic cannabis they need.
Medical marijuana regulations must be finalized by January 1st, 2024. The law itself does not go into effect until 2025. Governor Beshear expects that in the meantime, more conditions on medicinal cannabis may be introduced during the 2024 legislative session, eventually becoming part of the overall medicinal marijuana program in Kentucky.
In the interim, Gov. Andy Beshear says that his executive order on cannabis remains in effect, meaning qualifying medical marijuana patients who legally purchase cannabis in another state can possess the drug in Kentucky without legal repercussions until the new medicinal marijuana program starts. Kentucky’s neighbor Illinois, for instance, has legalized cannabis.
Kentucky is one of many states fighting to legalize medicinal or recreational cannabis. If you want to learn more about cannabis culture across the country and the globe, bookmark Cannabutter Digest. We update you on the latest cannabis news, recipes, and product reviews. Please stick with us to stay in the know!