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Medical marijuana legalized in Kentucky, but questions remain on rollout and specifics

Medical marijuana legalized in Kentucky, but questions remain on rollout and specifics (WKRC)
Medical marijuana legalized in Kentucky, but questions remain on rollout and specifics (WKRC)
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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed a bill legalizing medical marijuana use into law first thing Friday morning, following the Kentucky House of Representative’s approval of the 124-page Senate bill Thursday.

It comes after his executive order in late 2022, allowing the possession of medical marijuana if a patient has certain conditions.

But his order did not approve the sale of the drug in the state, something that now becomes legal – for medicinal purposes – starting in 2025.

The new law follows years of effort by medical marijuana advocates like Elijah Rosenbaum, communications director for the Kentucky branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

There are many things we're fighting for, for patients, and there are a lot of things this bill doesn't cover, but this is the bill we were able to get and this is the one that is helping sick kids right now," Rosenbaum said.

A day after the bill was signed, several questions still remain about how the new system will be rolled out. Medical marijuana won't be available until Jan. 1, 2025 in Kentucky at approved dispensaries. That time is designed to givthe Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services time to create new rules and agencies.

Here's are some specifics from the new law:

  • Only those older than 21 will be able to vape medical cannabis.
  • Smoking marijuana in any form will still be illegal.
  • It will only be sold in 30-day supplies. Those from states where medical marijuana is legal, and there are reciprocal agreements created, can get it in Kentucky, but for shorter periods.
  • Marijuana sold medically can only be grown in Kentucky, especially since transporting it across state lines is still a federal offense.

Another of the bill's intentions is to keep pot grown indoors, keeping it from cross-pollinating and ruining the state’s hemp crops.

Only six medical conditions qualify a patient for a marijuana card after certification from medical professionals, those include: cancer, chronic or debilitating pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting syndrome, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis.

That list is far shorter than the one Gov. Beshear approved in his executive order, but the law creates an opportunity for it to be expanded if conditions are approved by the Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research.

A big concern for those questioning the bill was how it would be given to minors.

The law mandates a parent or guardian needs to get marijuana for their kids with a medical certification, and it can only be administered at schools by qualified nurses with a parent's permission. Although, some lawmakers are pushing for districts to be able to opt-out of doing that.

One opponent to the law was state Rep. Kim Moserm, R-District 64.

She voted against the bill in committee Thursday afternoon and spoke to WKRC afterward, expressing concern of having legislators approving drugs and setting up a large bureaucracy.

I just think there are a lot of questions hanging out there that need to be answered before I'm comfortable passing something through that really still requires a lot of work,” she said.

State Rep. Rachel Roberts, D-District 67, said Saturday her constituents have been asking for this for a long time.

Medical cannabis is one of the things I hear most about from people in District 67,” she said. “Even before I was was elected, I had people that I knew in the area that wanted access to this medicine and were frustrated other states were offering it.

It will still be illegal to drive a car or operate other heavy machinery under the influence of marijuana under the new law.

The Kentucky General Assembly has not yet set a specific tax rate on sellers or growers of medical marijuana.

Ohio began sales of legalized medical marijuana in January 2019. Patients there pay a sales tax of 5.75% on the drug, while cities and counties are also allowed to impose their own tax.

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