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Kentucky Governor Approves Cannabis Research Facility

Andy Beshear, Kentucky governor approved Tuesday the establishment of a state-wide cannabis research center. However, he exercised his veto power and struck certain passages. Beshear’s approval of the measure, House Bill 604, comes one week after the Democratic governor said he would take steps to legalize medical cannabis in the Bluegrass State.

According to the law, Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research will be created at the University of Kentucky. The new facility would be tasked with planning and conducting research “to advance the study of the use of cannabis and cannabis derivatives for the treatment of certain medical conditions and diseases,” according to the text of the statute.

Already, the university has conducted research on cannabis and established a relationship with U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Additionally, the bill requires that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration approve the cultivation of cannabis. It also codifies the eligibility criteria for those interested in taking part in research on cannabis.

The Kentucky legislature passed the legislation in the final days of its legislative session earlier this month. Following the failure of the House of Representatives to pass House Bill 136, a House bill for medical cannabis legalization, the Senate approved the bill with overwhelming support. 

“This convenes researchers and scholars from across the state on this issue so we can reduce bottlenecks in the research and regulatory processes,” GOP Representative Kimberly Poore Moser, the sponsor of the legislation, said about House Bill 604 last month. “Our goal is to figure out what conditions cannabis can treat, and by doing so, make Kentucky a national leader in research, since only one other university has a similar program.”

Beshear employs line-item veto

Beshear used the line-item power of his veto to strike sections of the bill that he didn’t support. While the governor approved the legislation authorizing the establishment of the center, he removed sections that he felt limited its purpose and restricted the authority of the university president for appointing its advisory boards.

“I am vetoing these parts because they limit the purpose of the center and dictate who the president of the University of Kentucky should consider appointing to the advisory board after giving the president of the university sole appointing power,” Beshear wrote in his veto message.

“I am also vetoing these parts because ongoing appropriations may be necessary,” he added.

Because the state legislature has adjourned for the legislative session, Beshear’s line-item vetoes will stand and cannot be overridden by lawmakers.

Beshear indicated earlier in the month that he was open to taking executive action to promote legalization for medical cannabis in Kentucky. The governor published a plan to provide medical cannabis for patients in need last week after the Senate failed to pass the bill. 

“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,” Besear 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.”

Beshear said that he directed his general attorney to give advice to lawmakers on what executive actions could be taken in order to accelerate the legalization of medical cannabis. He also said that he would appoint a medical cannabis advisory panel to hold meetings across Kentucky to get residents’ input on the issue. The governor’s office has also established an email account ( so that residents who are unable to attend the public hearings in person can still provide input.

But Republican lawmakers balked at Beshear’s plan to take unilateral action on medical cannabis legalization. Robert Stivers, Kentucky’s state senator president said such an action was likely to be in violation of the Constitution.

“The public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change statute by executive order,” Stivers said. “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.”