Beshear to see if he can take executive action on medical marijuana in Kentucky

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Saying he was frustrated with the General Assembly’s inaction on passing a law allowing the use of medical marijuana, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear outlined Thursday a four-step strategy his administration will implement to determine what steps it can take on the subject.

In speaking to reporters, Beshear said he has asked his general counsel to review what executive action may be available to him. The governor also plans to create an advisory team that will hold at least four meetings across the state to solicit public input. In addition, a special email address, GovMedicalCannabisAdvisoryTeam@ky.gov, has been established to give residents who can’t attend the public forums a chance to share their views.

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

Kentucky is one of only 13 states that has not legalized any use of marijuana. However, it does permit the use of CBD oil. Both recreational and medicinal use is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, while 21 states allow it for medicinal purposes.

Beshear said the drug can aid individuals suffering from various illnesses and diseases, including ALS, cancer and epilepsy. He added it can also help individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders and serve as an alternative to addictive opioids for pain treatment and management.

Efforts to pass medical marijuana have succeeded in the state House, including this year. House Bill 136, sponsored by state Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, has 42 co-sponsors and enjoyed broad bipartisan support.

However, after it cleared in the House by a 59-34 margin last month, it never got a reading or a committee hearing in the Senate.

After Beshear's announcement, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, criticized the governor for looking to take executive action to overturn existing law, which Stivers said would violate the separation of powers clause in the constitution.

Stivers said that marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal statute and that current state drug laws mirror federal laws.

Further, Stivers said he has an issue with Beshear and Democrats wanting to tax medical marijuana.

“We don’t tax medicine in Kentucky,” the Senate leader said. “If our governor truly believes marijuana should be used for medicinal purposes, taxing it would be wholly inappropriate.”

Before the General Assembly ended its session last week, the House and Senate did agree to create a research center at the University of Kentucky to further study medical marijuana.

Kentuckians, though, appear to be ready for legalization.

A September 2019 survey by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky found that 90% of Kentucky adults supported purchasing and using marijuana for medical reasons. That was up from 78% in 2012.

A majority, 59%, also supported the purchase and use for any reason. That was up from 38% in 2012.

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Written by Steve Bittenbender. Cross-posted from Center Square.

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