Governor Andy Beshear announced on Thursday that his office would take four steps to study and potentially act on medical cannabis after legislators failed to pass a bill to legalize medicinal marijuana in the 2022 session. Representatives passed House Bill 136 59-34, but the Senate did not hear the bill before final adjournment on April 14. Representative Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) sponsored the measure.
“Its time has come, and it can give some ailing Kentuckians relief,” Beshear insisted at a news conference. He said the process would take place over the next several months.
The governor intends to take the following steps:
- Ask his general counsel and team to analyze options on executive actions;
- Establish the governor’s medical cannabis advisory team;
- Hear public comment across the state; and
- Create an email address for Kentuckians to communicate with the governor’s office on the issue ‒[email protected]
Beshear did not say who would serve on the advisory team. When asked whether he should include Representative Nemes, Beshear said he had not considered that option, but a conversation could take place. Although Beshear promised the group would make at least four stops throughout the state, he did not provide a detailed schedule.
While Beshear insisted he is not advocating for recreational cannabis use, he responded to a question about decriminalization efforts in Kentucky: “Nobody needs to go to jail, ultimately causing the loss of a job ‒ being apart from their family ‒ for possession of marijuana. It is very rare that that happens right now, but the fact that it continues to happen, I think, shows that we are more than a little bit outdated on that side.”
Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia currently allow some form of medical marijuana.
Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) released a statement following the governor’s plan for medical marijuana:
“The public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change statute by executive order. He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statue by executive order because it’s a constitutional separation of powers violation.”
Stivers noted that the General Assembly has already authorized research efforts on medical marijuana with the passage of House Bill 604 this session. While it stops short of approving medical marijuana, the bill would create a Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Kentucky. “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,” Stivers said.