FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear cleared the way Tuesday for a cannabis research center to open as he reviews whether he has the executive authority to singlehandedly legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky.
The governor revealed his action on a bill authorizing the research center at the University of Kentucky. The measure won overwhelming approval from lawmakers on the final day of this year's legislative session earlier this month.
In his review, the governor preserved the language creating the center. He said he used his line-item veto authority to broaden the center's work and allow more leeway in picking an oversight board.
The Democratic governor's line-item vetoes will stand since the Republican-dominated legislature won’t reconvene until January 2023 for its next regular session.
In the final weeks of this year's session, key lawmakers resisting the legalization of medical cannabis pushed for the research center as an alternative. It would allow more time to study the effectiveness of marijuana in treating certain ailments, they said.
A separate bill to legalize medical marijuana passed the state House but died in the Senate this year. The legalization bill would have strictly regulated the use of cannabis for a list of eligible medical conditions — including cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy and chronic nausea. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.
Frustrated by the Senate's inaction, Beshear recently instructed his legal team to review potential options to legalize medical marijuana through executive action and create a regulatory framework to make it accessible for certain medical ailments. Beshear also is establishing a medical cannabis advisory team to gather public input. He said last week that the review will span the next couple of months. He says legalization of medical marijuana has strong support from Kentuckians.
The governor's veto message Tuesday made no reference to his review of potential executive actions.
The bill gives UK's president the authority to appoint members of an advisory board overseeing the research center's work and finances. In his line-item vetoes, the governor struck language that listed UK officials to be considered for board membership, along with medical specialists. Beshear said he also struck provisions that he said restricted the center's work and its access to state funding.
“I am vetoing these parts because they limit the purpose of the center and dictate who the president of the University of Kentucky should consider appointing to the advisory board after giving the president of the university sole appointing power,” Beshear said in his veto message.
“I am also vetoing these parts because ongoing appropriations may be necessary,” he added.