Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed two executive orders Nov. 15: one to allow Kentuckians who meet specific requirements to possess and consume small amounts of legally purchased cannabis to treat qualifying medical conditions and another to regulate the sale of delta-8 THC.
“The executive orders come after Gov. Beshear formed the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee in June to travel the state and listen to Kentuckians’ views on the topic after the state legislature failed to pass legislation earlier this year,” according to a press release.
The committee found that 90% of Kentucky adults support legalizing medical cannabis.
“Our committee met good people all across the commonwealth who are suffering from terrible chronic conditions that are relieved by medical cannabis,” said Kerry Harvey, co-chair of the committee and secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. “This is real-world experience, not conjecture. The Governor’s action will improve the quality of life for these Kentuckians, but more should be done in the coming legislative session.”
Beshear also signed the executive order to help the opioid epidemic within Kentucky.
“For more than two decades, the opioid epidemic has plagued the Commonwealth of Kentucky, wreaking havoc on Kentuckians and their families. The epidemic arose in part from Kentuckians suffering from chronic pain turning to highly addictive opioids, from opioid medications to fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin,” Beshear wrote in the executive order.
For example, 1,964 Kentuckians died of an overdose in 2020, which was up nearly 50% from 2019.
Starting Jan. 1, 2023, Kentuckians with at least one of the 21 listed medical conditions in the executive order can legally purchase cannabis within the U.S. and possess and use it to treat their medical conditions. Some of the listed medical conditions include cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, severe arthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain.
Kentuckians can possess no more than 8 ounces of cannabis at a time and must keep the receipt of where they purchased the product. Individuals must also acquire and keep a copy of a certification from a licensed physician that shows they have one of the 21 qualifying conditions.
“Kentuckians suffering from chronic and terminal conditions are going to be able to get the treatment they need without living in fear of a misdemeanor,” Beshear said. “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 also noted that guidance is being created to determine who does and does not qualify. In addition, he added that Tuesday’s actions are not a substitute to fully legalize medical cannabis, and he plans to work with lawmakers this upcoming legislative session to push for medical cannabis legalization again. (Legislation to legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky passed the state House in March by a 59-34 vote but stalled in the Senate for the third time.)
Moreover, Beshear said he would regulate the sale of delta-8 THC in Kentucky and declared that it is a derivative of CBD and hemp, and is therefore not a controlled substance in Kentucky or under federal law, and is legal in the state.
“Right now, there are no checks on how it is packaged and sold. We must establish a regulatory structure to ensure that Delta 8 is sold and purchased safely in the commonwealth,” Beshear 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.”