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Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee Meets

On Monday, the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee met to review their responsibilities as well as discuss two upcoming town hall meetings.

Pikeville in Kentucky is hosting the inaugural town hall meeting on July 6. The meeting will be in the University of Pikeville’s Health Professions Education Building.

On July 19, the second town-hall meeting will take place at Frankfort’s Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Each meeting will last 90 minutes. A second meeting will also be held at a future date.

The committee will travel around the state, gathering opinions on the medical cannabis issue and provide feedback to the governor’s office.

Gov. Andy Beshear established the committee by an executive order last week. It consists of 17 members, including attorneys, university professors and medical cannabis advocates.

Co-chairs for the panel were Ray Perry (Secretary of Public Protection Cabinet) and Kerry Harvey (Secretary of Justice and Public Safety Cabinet).

The executive order states that members will be serving on the committee for a period of two years.

“We start with a committee of people that really bring a wide array of experience and expertise to the project,” Harvey told The Courier Journal. “You have medical people, pharmacy people, you have people that know a lot about substance abuse disorders, and you have people with very deep experience in law enforcement and prosecution. The committee itself can provide a great deal of useful information.”

The goal of the group, according to Harvey and Beshear’s office, is to listen to the people of Kentucky and bring their perspectives on medical cannabis back to the governor and other officials.

“Our plan is to go to different parts of the state and really just to have open town hall meetings so that anyone who is interested or concerned about this issue can provide the committee and ultimately the governor with not only their point of view, but their experience,” Harvey said.

For those unable to attend the town hall meetings, Beshear’s office created a website for users to submit their thoughts on medical cannabis.

In his executive order, Beshear said, “Allowing Kentuckians diagnosed with certain medical conditions and receiving palliative care to cultivate, purchase, possess and/or use medical cannabis would improve the quality of their lives and may help reduce abuse of other more dangerous and addictive medications, such as opioids.”

Overdose deaths in Kentucky have risen dramatically in recent years—2,250 deaths were reported in 2021, as stated by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, compared to 1,316 in 2019.

“It would also improve Kentucky’s economy by bringing new jobs and businesses to the Commonwealth, as well as supporting Kentucky farmers,” Beshear continued.

A total of 38 other states have already legalized medical cannabis, including Ohio—which, earlier this year, reported that its medical cannabis program had generated about $725 million in revenue.

In Kentucky, there were earlier attempts at legalizing medical marijuana in 2022 and 2020.

A bill led by Rep. Jason Nemes, R (Republican) was approved in 2020 with 65 votes. However, it fell flat in the Senate because of a dearth of Republican support and the shorter session caused by COVID-19.

The Kentucky House of Representatives voted 59 to 34 in March of 2015 to approve HB 136, a bill that legalizes medical marijuana. This effort was stopped by the Senate leadership shortly thereafter.

Beshear approved legislation in April to create a University of Kentucky marijuana research center. According to HB 604, the new facility will 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.”