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Gov. Beshear signs executive order making medical marijuana accessible in Kentucky

To use medical cannabis, Kentuckians will need to meet certain specific conditions starting Jan. 1, 2023. Here's what you need to know.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Governor Andy Beshear has signed two executive orders making medical marijuana more accessible to Kentuckians at the start of next year.

The first order signed on Tuesday will allow Kentuckians with certain severe medical conditions the ability to possess and use small amounts of legally purchased medical cannabis to treat their conditions.

"Kentuckians suffering from chronic and terminal conditions are going to be able to get the treatment they need with living in fear of a misdemeanor," he said.

Kristin Wilcox whose daughter has been suffering from a rare form of epilepsy says she grateful her prayers are finally being answered.

"It's been devastating just because of the failure of the legislators to act. So the fact that the governor truly listened to us, heard our cries for help and has decided to do this has been huge," she said.

Beshear's second executive order allows the state to regulate the sale of Delta 8. It's another type of cannabis that contains a lower level of THC than marijuana.

"We must establish a regulatory structure to ensure that Delta 8 is sold and purchased safely in the commonwealth," the governor said. “The structure can and will also serve as a template for when the General Assembly fully legalizes medical cannabis. That means we can learn in real-time, train our people and be ready to go.”

Both go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Here's what you need to know

Kentuckians must have at least one of 21 medical conditions, which include, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, muscular dystrophy or a terminal illness.

Click here for a full list of conditions.

They must also meet the following requirements:

  • Cannabis must be bought in a state where the purchase is legal and regulated. Kentuckians will need to keep their receipt.
  • You can only be in possession of less than 8 ounces, which is the difference between a misdemeanor and felony in the Bluegrass.
  • Each Kentuckian must also have a certification from a licensed health care provider that shows that the individual has been diagnosed with one of the 21 medical conditions listed. A copy of the certification must be retained.

“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,” Beshear said.

The governor said that guidance is also being crafted for law enforcement officers to quickly and accurately determine who does and does not qualify.

Beshear's actions are not a substitute for legislation to fully legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky, though. 

Attorney General Daniel Cameron was quick to condemn the orders, calling them another attempt to "bypass the policy-making authority of the General Assembly."

"Today's executive orders regarding medical marijuana and Delta 8 are another example of his attitude toward governing," Cameron said. "As always, he seems to relish ruling by decree instead of by law. Kentucky's General Assembly is the sole and final policy-making body of this state and they must be allowed to have their say. We are reviewing these executive orders to determine next steps."

In a press release though, Beshear said he plans to work with lawmakers in the upcoming session to push for full legalization of medical cannabis once again. He added that if passed, it would provide further relief for Kentuckians and fuel job growth while supporting the state's farmers.

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