FRANKFORT, Ky. — Monday, the new Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee met in Frankfort for the first time.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced the 17 members of the committee last week, tasked with advising him on providing access to medical cannabis for Kentuckians with chronic pain and other illnesses.
Committee Co-Chairs, Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Kerry Harvey and Secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet Ray Perry, led the meeting, and said cannabis is an alternative to highly addictive opioids.
"What we're talking about here is a doctor's ability to work with their patients to work with their patients and be prescribed the best medication and treatment they have to offer. And we think that the citizens of the commonwealth deserve to have this," Perry said.
The committee will conduct four town halls in different parts of the state, speaking with Kentuckians about their thoughts on medical cannabis.
The members have backgrounds ranging from criminal justice, to medicine to personal experience using medical marijuana. They will also be able to share expertise and ask questions.
One committee member, Dr. Linda McClain, of Louisville, ran Georgia’s first medical marijuana clinic. She said cannabis helped hundreds of her patients, even children, find relief from pain and illness.
McClain wants to make sure dispensaries and growth are part of the conversation.
"In Georgia, they didn't set anything up for dispensaries or growth," she said. "So patients were having to commit crime to get their medication, which is unfortunate so I'm happy to see we're going to be looking at that aspect too."
Legalization of medical cannabis stalled again this year in the Senate during Kentucky’s legislative session. In response, Governor Beshear floated the idea of taking executive action on medical marijuana.
Dee Dee Taylor, of 502 Hemp Wellness, said she hopes the information and reports provided by the committee will win the legislature over.
Harvey made clear Monday the committee is not dealing in partisan politics.
"I’ve heard some of the debate about executive action and frankly we all know executive power is not unlimited but neither is it inconsiderable," Harvey said.
Harvey said most of the feedback they’ve received so far, through the state's online feedback form, has been in favor of legalization.
Perry said there isn't a timeline to create a report for the governor, but the committee hopes to reach a recommendation soon.
"People are sick and tired of being sick and tired and they want a safe alternative and access to medical cannabis here in Kentucky," Taylor said.
The first two town halls will be held in Pikeville on July 5, at 5:30 p.m. and in Frankfort on July 19 at 5:30 p.m.
The other two town halls have yet to be settled. All will be open to the public.
In the meantime, Kentuckians can submit their thoughts and feedback via the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee website.