Kentucky Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Law

Green bud is now available to medically qualified residents of the Bluegrass state.

by Rowan Nathan · April 03, 2023

Green bud is now available to medically qualified residents of the Bluegrass state.

On Friday, the day before April Fools' Day, Kentucky’s Governor signed a bill to finally legalize medical cannabis.

Just one day after the House approved the legislation from Sen. Stephen West (R), Gov. Andy Beshear (D) fulfilled his pledge to sign SB 47 into law, making the Commonwealth the 38th state to enact medical pot regulation.

“Far too many of our people face the obstacle of having chronic or terminal diseases like cancer, or those like our veterans suffering from PTSD or Kentuckians living with epilepsy, seizures, Parkinson’s or more,” Beshear commented. “These folks want and deserve safe and effective methods of treatment.”

Senate Bill 47 passed the House by a bipartisan 66-33 vote shortly after it cleared a House committee, with most Republicans and all but one Democrat voting to legalize and regulate the drug.

Rep. Jason Nemes-R from Louisville, who carried medical cannabis bills in the House for several sessions, said “there are thousands and thousands of Kentuckians who just want to be, and want to feel better—and this will help them with that.”

Here’s what to know about SB 47:

Patients with recommendations from doctors or advanced nurse can qualify to use cannabis if they 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 which the Kentucky Center for Cannabis deems appropriate.

Smoking marijuana will be prohibited, but patients can still access raw cannabis for vaporization.

Home cultivation will not be allowed.

Patients can possess a 30-day supply of cannabis in their residence and a 10-day supply on their person.

Patient registration will only last up to 60 days, and the initial visit must be in person.

There will be a 35 percent THC cap on flower marijuana products and 70 percent cap for concentrates. Edibles cannot exceed 10 milligrams per serving.

Medical cannabis will be exempt from sales and excise taxes.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services will be charged with overseeing the program, including setting regulations and issuing business licenses.

License categories include three tiers of cultivators as well as producers, processors, safety compliance facilities and dispensaries.

Local governments can opt out of allowing cannabis businesses to operate, but citizens can petition to have their municipalities opt back in.

A nine-member Board of Physicians and Advisors will be created consisting of seven physicians and two advanced nurse practitioners.

Regulations will need to be finalized by July 1, 2024. The soonest medical cannabis could be for sale is January 1, 2025.

The state Board of Physicians and State Board of Nursing will be responsible for certifying practitioners to recommend cannabis.

Rep Nemes, who was the lead sponsor of medical cannabis initiatives in past sessions, warned that under the current bill, patients who smoked weed instead of consuming it through approved methods would be breaking the law and subject to losing their medical cannabis cards. "You will lose your card if you get caught smoking and you will go to jail, as you ought to," Nemes said. "This is not a wink wink, nod nod medical program."

Although the medical pot initiative isn’t the most liberal relative to qualifying conditions, it's a huge win for Advocates who have been pushing reform for the last decade.

Previously Kentucky’s House passed a medical cannabis legalization bill, and each time they died in the Senate. This session, advocates started on the Senate side.

A big reason for the win was winning over Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R), who steadfastly opposed broad medical cannabis policy reform, arguing that it’s a fast-track to full adult-use legalization. Recently, however, Senator Thayer acquiesced, indicating he would not stand in the way if the bill had enough support. The Republican, who attributed his support of the new measure due to its ‘narrow focus’, kept his word, voting to support the bill in committee earlier in March. He later backed the measure on the Senate floor.

There was urgency in Frankfurt this time around. The governor called on the legislature to legalize medical cannabis “this session” during his State of the Commonwealth speech in January, noting medical cannabis was an essential reform for the state.

Beshear previously signed a pair of executive orders in November, which included the intent to regulate the sale of alternative cannabinoid products such as those made with HHC and delta-8 THC.

Beshear voiced support for broader marijuana legalization in 2020, noting it was time the Commonwealth “...joined so many other states in doing the right thing.” He also alluded to Kentucky’s farmers and agricultural infrastructure being well positioned to cultivate and export cannabis to other states in the eventuality of interstate cannabis commerce.

In January, a separate legislation was filed for the 2023 session that would put a marijuana legalization referendum on the ballot for voters, but it has not advanced. Either way, it looks like soon we could see dispensaries in Louisville or dispensaries in Lexington, and maybe soon weed delivery is coming to Kentucky as well.