The Kentucky Senate Must Have Approved Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana!
On Thursday, the conservative Kentucky Senate became the first in history to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state. With a vote of 26-11, the Senate passed Sen. Stephen West’s (R) bill on the last day of the session when bills could be sent to the other chamber. In past sessions, the House has passed similar proposals, but the Senate never moved on them.
The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee passed the measure two days before this happened. “This bill has been talked about in this chamber for many years,” West told his fellow lawmakers. He said that he became interested in the issue after meeting a quadriplegic constituent who could benefit from medical cannabis.
“I’m now sure that medical marijuana, given to our people through a tightly regulated system, can help them in important ways,” he said. “It’s time for Kentucky to join the other 37 states in the US that let their residents use medical marijuana.” Here’s what would happen if SB 47 was changed:
- Patients who have cancer, severe pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms or spasticity, chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other medical condition or disease that the Kentucky Center for Cannabis thinks is appropriate could qualify to use cannabis.
- It would be against the law to smoke marijuana, but patients could still get raw cannabis to vape.
- Growing plants at home wouldn’t be allowed.
- Patients could have enough cannabis at home for 30 days and on their person for 10 days.
- Patients can only be registered for up to 60 days, and the first visit must be in person.
- There would be a limit of 35 percent THC on marijuana flowers and a limit of 70 percent THC on concentrates. Each serving of edibles couldn’t have more than 10 milligrams.
- Sales and excise taxes would not apply to medical marijuana.
- The program would be run by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which would be in charge of making rules and giving out business licenses.
- There are three levels of licenses for growers, as well as licenses for producers, processors, compliance facilities, and dispensaries.
- Local governments could decide not to let cannabis businesses operate, but citizens could ask their governments to change their minds.
- Seven doctors and two advanced nurse practitioners would make up the nine-person Board of Physicians and Advisors.
- By January 1, 2024, regulations would have to be finalized.
- The state Board of Physicians and the State Board of Nursing would be in charge of letting doctors and nurses recommend cannabis.
Before the vote on the floor, senators passed a committee substitute as well as an amendment from the bill’s sponsor that makes it clear that employers will still be able to use behavioral assessments and drug tests to figure out if a worker is impaired on the job.
If the employer decides that the tests show signs of impairment while on the job, “the burden of proving non-impairment shall shift to the employee in order to refute the findings.” Last year and in the session before that, the House passed bills to legalize medical cannabis, but the Senate did not act on them.
So, advocates started this session on the Senate side. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R), who has always been against broad medical cannabis policy reform because he thinks it’s a fast track to full adult-use legalization, has been a big problem for the reform.
He said more recently, though, that he wouldn’t stop the bill if it had enough support to pass. And on Tuesday, he voted to support the bill in committee, saying that its “narrowly focused approach” had won him over. He also supported the measure when it came up for a vote on Thursday.
During his January State of the Commonwealth speech, Kentucky’s Democratic Governor Andy Beshear asked the legislature to legalize medical cannabis “this session.” He said that the state needs to make this change to make sure it is “treating people right.”
After signing two executive orders in November, the governor gave the speech. The orders let patients who meet certain criteria legally buy up to eight ounces of medical marijuana from dispensaries in other states and also set rules for the sale of delta-8 THC products.
Ryan Quarles, who is running for governor as a Republican and is currently the state’s agriculture commissioner, recently said that, if elected, he would work with lawmakers to legalize medical cannabis within his first year in office.
Advocates are putting more pressure on lawmakers to pass reform this session. Groups like Kentucky Moms for Medical Cannabis (KMMC) and Kentucky NORML have made it clear that the issue has been stuck in the Bluegrass State for too long.
Last year, the governor released a report from a medical marijuana advisory committee that he had set up. In September, he said that he would consider the committee’s findings as he continued to think about executive actions for reform.
Last year, the governor talked about his plans to move forward with medical marijuana through administrative means. He criticized the Senate for not listening to what voters wanted and for “blocking” reform by not even giving a House-passed bill a hearing this year.
Beshear also said he was in favor of legalizing marijuana for more people in 2020. He said, “It’s time we did the right thing like so many other states.” He also said that farmers in Kentucky would be in a good position to grow cannabis and sell it to other states.
Last week, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill that regulates the sale of delta-8 THC products. In January, a lawmaker put forward a bill for the 2023 session that would put a vote on legalizing marijuana on the ballot, but it has not moved forward.