The majority of those who offered their perspectives on medical cannabis in Kentucky support legalization, according to a summary of feedback gathered by the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee.
Gov. Andy Beshear released the summary Sept. 30 after committee members traveled the state and heard Kentuckians’ views on the issue.
“Polling suggests 90% of Kentucky adults support legalizing medical cannabis,” Beshear said in a public statement. “Our team traveled the state to talk directly to Kentuckians, and they found our people do indeed overwhelmingly support it. I appreciate the work of those who participated, and I am taking this information into consideration as I analyze what steps I can take to legalize medical cannabis for those suffering from chronic, debilitating medical conditions.”
The Kentucky House approved legislation in March to allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis by Jan. 1, 2023, for a specified list of qualifying conditions. The proposal, Republican Rep. Jason Nemes’ House Bill 136, ultimately stalled in the Senate, prompting Beshear to consider an executive order to legalize medical cannabis.
The Democratic governor announced in April that his administration would implement a four-step plan on medical cannabis policy, as previously reported by Cannabis Business Times:
- Beshear asked his general counsel to begin analyzing options under the law for the governor to consider regarding executive action on medical cannabis.
- His administration will establish a Medical Cannabis Advisory Team.
- He will ask this advisory team to travel around the state and listen to what Kentuckians have to say about medical cannabis.
- And the governor has established a way for Kentuckians to communicate with his office specifically on the topic. They can email the governor’s office at GovMedicalCannabisAdvisoryTeam@ky.gov.
Beshear also signed into law legislation that authorized a cannabis research center at the University of Kentucky (UK). The proposal was backed by key lawmakers who opposed medical cannabis legalization, and the research center officially opened last month.
In the meantime, the 17-member Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee formed in June and set up town hall meetings in across the state to collect feedback for Beshear on medical cannabis legalization.
The summary from the committee includes the following key findings, according to a press release from Beshear’s office:
- Kentuckians of all ages are suffering from chronic conditions. Medical providers are prescribing opioids and painkillers that are not providing relief, and Kentuckians are fearful of their addictive properties. Research indicates individuals cannot overdose from cannabis.
- Kentuckians are leaving the state to access medical cannabis in states where it is legal. They want to be able to return to the commonwealth without breaking the law.
- Kentucky military veterans explained that PTSD was significantly eased by the use of cannabis.
“Everyone who spoke [during the committee’s town hall meetings] supported legalizing medical cannabis in Kentucky,” Kerry Harvey, co-chair of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee and secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said in a public statement. “We heard from many Kentuckians that use cannabis for its beneficial medical effects but can only do so by breaking the law as it now exists. Many of these Kentuckians must leave the commonwealth to legally obtain medical cannabis in one of the 38 states where it is legal.”
The meetings’ attendees reported finding relief from chronic symptoms through the use of medical cannabis, according to the press release, and military veterans emphasized the benefits of cannabis in reducing PTSD symptoms.
“Our nation is dealing with a critical crisis from the overuse of addictive opioids,” Ray Perry, co-chair of the committee and secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet, said in a public statement. “The people we heard from are looking for pain relief that allows them to live useful, productive lives. We heard about family trauma stemming from unresolved pain and addictive painkillers. We also heard the frustration that politics deprives them of legal access to an efficacious treatment available to an overwhelming majority of Americans.”
In addition to the town hall meetings, the public could submit feedback online using Kentucky’s medical cannabis website. The website received 3,539 total comments, and 98.64% of them expressed support for medical cannabis legalization.
Beshear reiterated last month, upon receiving an initial report from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee, that he will use the public feedback to potentially legalize medical cannabis through executive action.
“It’s based on the expertise of the individuals that include doctors and pharmacists as well as advocates and then those that personally have gotten relief from the use of medical marijuana, or medical cannabis,” Beshear said. “It’s also based on the input of meetings that were conducted all across Kentucky because we were committed to listening to the people of Kentucky, which parts of the general assembly have refused to. With that information, we’ll be making final determinations on actions that we could take, but there will be some actions forthcoming."