In an effort to reduce Kentuckians’ reliance on addictive opioids and to provide them relief from pain, Gov. Andy Beshear said that, starting next year, Kentuckians with certain severe medical conditions and who meet specific requirements will be able to possess and use small amounts of legally purchased medical cannabis to treat their medical conditions.
In an executive order, the Governor outlined conditions that Kentuckians with at least one of 21 medical conditions, which include cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, muscular dystrophy or a terminal illness, must meet to access medical cannabis beginning January 1, 2023. These conditions include:
- Cannabis must be bought in the United States of America in a state where the purchase is legal and regulated. Kentuckians will need to keep their receipt.
- The amount a person can purchase and possess at any one time must not exceed 8 ounces, which is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in Kentucky.
- Each Kentuckian must also have a licensed health care provider certification that shows that the individual has been diagnosed with at least one of 21 medical conditions. A copy of the certification must be retained.
“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,” Gov. Beshear said. “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.”
Read the executive order for the complete list of conditions.
The Governor said that guidance is being created for law enforcement to determine who does and does not qualify quickly and accurately.
He added that today’s actions are not a substitute for much-needed legislation to fully legalize medical cannabis. The Governor stated that he will work with lawmakers this upcoming session to push for full legalization of medical cannabis once again, which would further provide relief for those suffering, fuel job growth and support Kentucky’s farmers.
The Governor also announced that the state would regulate the sale of Delta 8. Delta 8 contains THC, but at a lower level than marijuana. It is not a controlled substance in Kentucky nor under federal law, and a court has ruled that it is legal in Kentucky.
The executive orders come after Gov. Beshear formed the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee in June to travel the state and listen to Kentuckians’ views on the topic after the state legislature failed to pass legislation earlier this year. On Sept. 30, the Governor released the summary from the committee that proved Kentuckians agree that it is past time for the Commonwealth to take action on legalizing medical cannabis.
In addition to the town hall meetings, the state’s medical cannabis website allowed Kentuckians to submit their opinions online. The website received 3,539 comments, 98.64% of which expressed support for legalizing medical cannabis in Kentucky.
Visit medicalcannabis.ky.gov for a list of advisory team members, which includes Kentuckians with experience in health care, treatment of opioid use disorder and other diseases of addiction, law enforcement, criminal justice and advocacy for medical cannabis.
A total of 37 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands allow cannabis for medical use by qualified individuals. In May 2021, Alabama legalized medical cannabis. This year, Mississippi and Rhode Island did the same. Kentucky’s neighboring states of Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and West Virginia have legalized medical cannabis.
Allowing Kentuckians diagnosed with certain medical conditions and receiving palliative care to purchase, possess and/or use medical cannabis would improve the quality of their lives and may help reduce the abuse of other more dangerous and addictive medications, such as opiates.
One recent study showed a 64% reduction in opioid use among chronic pain patients who used medical cannabis. These patients experienced fewer side effects and improved quality of life. Unlike opioids, cannabis does not cause respiratory depression leading to lesser mortality rates, and medical cannabis is far less addictive.