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Kentucky Governor Announces Medical Cannabis Plan

Andy Beshear (Democratic Kentucky Governor) released a plan that would make medical cannabis more accessible for patients. It was based on lawmakers’ failure to move forward with the issue. Beshear’s announcement comes after the state legislature voted down a medicinal cannabis legalization bill last month.

“Its time has come and it can give some ailing Kentuckians relief,” Beshear said at a news conference, as quoted by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

House Bill 136 was passed by the Kentucky House of Representatives in March. This bill would have allowed medicinal cannabis use for certain conditions to be legalized and established a framework for the regulation of commercial cannabis sales and production. After the bill was rejected by the Kentucky Senate, Beshear stated on April 7 that the governor would consider taking executive actions to allow medical marijuana to be available to patients. On Wednesday, Beshear announced that he was planning to make this happen.

“If they are not going to take action—not even give it a committee hearing in the Senate—then I believe it’s my obligation to see what’s possible given the will of the people and their desire to move forward on this,” he said. “It’s time to certainly move the conversation forward.”

“Would I have preferred if the legislature had passed it?” Beshear asked. “Yes. But they didn’t.”

Governor creates Advisory Panel

Beshear indicated that he asked his general attorney for advice on executive steps to help move the medical marijuana process forward without approval from lawmakers. He also said that he would appoint a Governor’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Team to hold meetings across Kentucky to get residents’ input on the issue. The governor’s office has also set up an email account ( so that residents who are unable to attend the public hearings can provide input.

“I want to be clear: I am for medical cannabis,” Beshear said. “I want it done in the right way, and we’re going to be looking at our legal options very closely. And at the same time, we want to hear from you.”

Beshear’s executive orders have been resisted by the GOP-controlled legislature, which has now passed legislation that will curtail their use. However, the governor stated that his actions are driven by compassion and not politics.

“If you meet a parent who can’t stop their child from having seizures, but they’ve been to another state and this works, they ought to have that opportunity to help that child,” Beshear said.

Beshear was asked whether Kentucky should allow recreational marijuana. However, he said that he supported the decriminalization cannabis possession.

“Nobody needs to go to jail, ultimately causing them loss of job, being hard on their family, for possession of marijuana,” Beshear said. “And it is very rare that it happens right now. But I think the fact that it continues to happen shows that we’re a little outdated.”

GOP Lawmakers Blast Governor’s Plan

Republican lawmakers refuted the remarks of Beshear. Robert Stivers (Senate President) stated that Beshear is not authorized to unilaterally legalize cannabis.

“The public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change statute by executive order,” Stiver wrote in a statement on Thursday evening. “He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statute by executive order because it’s a Constitutional separation of powers violation.”

He also indicated that he was opposed to any attempts to levy tax on medical cannabis.

“The governor indicated previously he intends to tax marijuana; we don’t tax medicine in Kentucky,” Stiver added. “If our governor truly believes marijuana should be used for medicinal purposes, taxing it would be wholly inappropriate.”

Stiver then noted that while a bill related cannabis research was passed by the state legislatures, Beshear had so far refused to sign it into law.

“The General Assembly has initiated an effort to conduct additional research on medical marijuana through the passage of HB 604 during this past legislative session,” he wrote. “HB 604 establishes the Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Kentucky to research the efficacy of medical cannabis. The Governor may speak in favor of medical marijuana, but he still has not signed HB 604 that has been sitting on his desk since April 14.”

Beshear stated that the administration would spend two more months developing an executive plan for legalizing medical marijuana.

“It’s got to be done right,” he said. “And I believe that we have an opportunity to set up the right regulatory framework where we don’t see abuse. This gives us the opportunity to think over the next few months. But we will be looking at action and a culmination into some form of action depending on our legal options.”