The legal details are not fully ironed out, but Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear indicated May 5 that his administration forecasts an opening for an executive order on medical cannabis.

The Democratic governor didn’t reveal what specific actions might be on the table, but he did signal leeway for his office to act in some capacity during his weekly news conference Thursday.

“The legal analysis is not yet finalized, but I do think that there is going to be room for at least some executive action,” Beshear said when asked for an update. “Our challenge on putting together the task force is a positive one: It’s that there is so much interest. It is time for, call it, medical cannabis or medical marijuana in Kentucky. It is the will of the people. And there are folks out there suffering.”

Beshear asked his general counsel to begin analyzing options under the law for the governor to consider regarding executive action on medical cannabis, which he announced under a four-step plan to effectuate change on the state’s medical cannabis policy during his April 21 news conference.

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The governor’s plan comes on the heels of Kentucky’s Senate stalling on medical cannabis legalization for the past three years. Most recently, the upper chamber killed legislation that cruised to House passage by way of a 59-34 vote in March.

That failed legislation, sponsored by GOP Rep. Jason Nemes, aimed at allowing doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to patients for six qualifications: cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy/seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Beshear said Thursday that he continues to hear stories from Kentuckians who would benefit from legal access to medical cannabis.

“You know, I talked to a mom the other day whose son’s been deployed I think four times, been through three IEDs [improvised explosive devices], suffering from PTSD and could legally get this in other states,” the governor said. “And she says it helps him. That’s the type of help we ought to be providing.”

The majority of state residents agree, according to a February 2020 Kentucky Health Issues Poll that showed nine out of 10 Kentucky adults favored legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.

Also included in Beshear’s four-step plan is to establish a Medical Cannabis Advisory Team to travel around the state and listen to what Kentuckians have to say about policy change.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the [legal] analysis,” he said Thursday. “We’ve got to obviously merge that in with the feedback. My hope is that we’ll get this thing named here pretty soon. The challenge is that there are thousands of people who want to be a part [of a new policy], because there are thousands of people who feel very, very strongly about this issue.”

The governor’s announcement that his legal team is exploring avenues for him to act drew criticism from Senate President Robert Stivers, who said last month that Beshear would be overstepping the constitutional separation of powers. 

Beshear added Thursday that he wants to be meticulous in whatever executive action he takes.

“Whatever steps we’re able to take, we want them to be clear; we want it to serve a purpose,” he said. “It is not a back-in way to allow recreational marijuana. And, so, we want to make sure that we do it right. And, depending on what the options are, if we’re able to move forward on the industry side, I believe I’ve got a background where we could set this up right. We could have accountability. And if options are less than that, I think that there are real ways to make sure that any rules are very clear for the protection of everyone out there.”