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Kentucky Medical Cannabis Decriminalization Now in Effect

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

January 5, 2023

man wearing wrist brace rolls a joint

iStock

An executive order issued late last year by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to

medical marijuana went into effect on January 1, giving patients with proper authorization the freedom to use cannabis medicinally without fear of prosecution. 

“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,”

in a statement from the governor’s office on November 15. “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.”

Beshear’s executive order authorizes patients with at least one of 21 medical conditions including cancer, terminal illness, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder to use cannabis medicinally. To comply with the executive order, medical cannabis must be purchased in a state that has legalized and regulates marijuana, and the patient must retain the receipt from the purchase. 

“It’s really important that the person that’s seeking relief keeps that paperwork,”

last month. “Because our law enforcement will have a palm card where basically they go through that checklist, can you show me the receipt of where you purchased it?”

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Kentucky Medical Cannabis Patient Possession Limits

Possession of

is limited to eight ounces per patient, which is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony for marijuana possession in Kentucky. Patients are also required to have certification from a licensed medical provider that shows the patient has been diagnosed with at least one of the specified medical conditions.

“It is clear that Kentuckians want medical cannabis,”

as he signed the executive order in November. “Today’s action means Kentuckians that suffer from these chronic and terminal conditions will soon be able to get the help they need without living in fear of being charged with a misdemeanor.”

Beshear’s executive order went into effect on Sunday. Under the order, patients certified to use medical marijuana in a state where it is legal and obtain their medicine legally will be pardoned for possession charges brought against them.

“It can be a veteran suffering from PTSD,”

in an interview at the state Capitol in Frankfort last week. “It can be a family member suffering from epilepsy. These aren’t stories, they are realities.”

“I couldn’t sit and let another veteran end their life. I couldn’t sit and watch another person fall into addiction with opioids,”

. “We had to do something to provide what relief we can, and I hope also push the General Assembly to do their job.”

The executive order followed the failure of the state legislature to pass legislation to legalize medical marijuana last year and Beshear’s creation of the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee in June 2022. The panel traveled throughout the state, hosting town hall meetings to listen to Kentuckians’ views on the legalization of medical marijuana. In October, the panel reported that it had received more than 3,500 public comments on the subject of medicinal cannabis, with 98.6% in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in Kentucky.

Robert Matheny, the owner of KY CBD Farmacy in Lexington, said that he supports Beshear’s executive order. But he noted that decriminalizing medical cannabis is a complicated issue.

“There’s a lot of doctors starting today that can recommend medical marijuana,” Matheny said on Sunday. “Some of those doctors don’t even know how to use it.”

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Legalization Bill Could Come This Year

While Beshear’s executive order affords medical cannabis patients protection from prosecution, Matheny notes that it does not clarify what forms of cannabis it covers. The future fate of the policy is also in question, and the executive order could face legal challenges from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

Matheny believes more comprehensive cannabis policy reform is needed in the state. He serves as a board member for the Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition and says the group will be partnering with a state lawmaker to file a bill that would let voters decide on legalizing medical marijuana.

“This is to amend the Kentucky constitution to allow Kentuckians to vote on cannabis for themselves,” said Matheny. “We can’t keep asking legislators to do this…we need a second option.”

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

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