Beshear to allow medical cannabis use for treatment of severe medical conditions

Andy Beshear
File Photo

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday that Kentucky residents with severe medical conditions will be allowed to use medical cannabis for treatment starting next year.

In an executive order, the governor outlined the following conditions that Kentuckians with at least one of 21 medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, muscular dystrophy or a terminal illness, must meet to access medical cannabis beginning Jan. 1, 2023:

Cannabis must be bought in the United States of America in a state where the purchase is legal and regulated. Kentuckians will need to keep their receipt.
The amount a person can purchase and possess at any one time must not exceed 8 ounces, which is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in Kentucky.
Each Kentuckian must also have a certification from a licensed health care provider that shows that the individual has been diagnosed with at least one of 21 medical conditions. A copy of the certification must be retained.

Those that meet the requirements will be able to possess and use small amounts of legally purchased medical cannabis to treat their medical conditions.

“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. “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.”

In addition, the governor said that guidance is being created for law enforcement to determine quickly and accurately who does and does not qualify.

He added that today’s actions are not a substitute for legislation to fully legalize medical cannabis.

Beshear stated that he will work with lawmakers this upcoming session to push for full legalization of medical cannabis once again, which the governor’s office says would further provide relief for those suffering, fuel job growth and support Kentucky’s farmers.

The governor also announced that the state will regulate the sale of Delta 8. Delta 8 contains THC but at a lower level than marijuana. It is not a controlled substance in Kentucky nor under federal law, and a court has ruled that it 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 executive orders come after the governor formed the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee in June to travel the state and listen to views on the topic after the state legislature did not pass legislation earlier this year.

On Sept. 30, Beshear released a summary from the committee that showed Kentuckians agree it is past time for Kentucky to take action on legalizing medical cannabis.

Military veterans attending town halls emphasized the benefits of cannabis in reducing PTSD symptoms. Some described the inability to sleep because of the disorder, while others reported being prescribed numerous medications to ease pain, treat anxiety, sleep or move their joints fully.

A veteran from Northern Kentucky, Jared Bonvell, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, described his daily struggle after being prescribed 13 medications that weren’t effective, which left him contemplating suicide.

“Within a year, I didn’t drink and was off 12 of the 13 medications,” said Bonvell. “I still have all those injuries and disabilities, but I can function. I can live. I can have friendships and conversations again.”

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 Kentucky.

Kerry Harvey, co-chair of the committee and secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet said, “Our committee met good people all across the commonwealth who are suffering from terrible chronic conditions that are relieved by medical cannabis. 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.”