Off to the Races: Executive Order Allows Use of Medical Marijuana in Kentucky

On November 15, 2022, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear issued Executive Order 2022-798 authorizing the use of medical cannabis in the state because “Kentuckians throughout the Commonwealth suffer from a multitude of medical conditions from which they deserve relief.”  The Executive Order serves as a “full, complete, and conditional pardon” for certain individuals accused of possession of marijuana after the effective date of January 1, 2023. The Executive Order contains a specific list of criteria (set forth below) that must be satisfied for individuals to qualify for the pardon.

In the preamble to the Order, Governor Beshear cites the 37 states and other U.S. territories that allow cannabis for medical use by qualified individuals. The Order notes specifically the southern states of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as a number of states bordering Kentucky – including Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and West Virginia – that have all legalized medical cannabis.  The Order also cites “the opioid epidemic [that] has plagued the Commonwealth of Kentucky, wreaking havoc on Kentuckians and their families” and describes how cannabis can treat similar conditions for which opioids are prescribed but without the risk of overdose deaths or levels of addiction related to opioid use.

The Executive Order is the result of the work of the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee, which was established through Executive Order 2022-338 and created a committee of members with experience in healthcare, opioid use, law enforcement, criminal justice, and advocacy for medical cannabis. Governor Beshear noted, “[o]f the more than 3,500 public comments the advisory committee received, 98.6 percent (98.6%) were in favor of legalizing medical cannabis.”

To qualify for the benefits afforded by the Executive Order, an individual patient must satisfy the following conditions:

  1. The medical cannabis must have been lawfully purchased in a jurisdiction within the United States but outside Kentucky.
  2. The individual must produce a written proof of purchase that shows the place of purchase, the physical location of the place of purchase, and the date of purchase.
  3. The amount of medical cannabis in the individual’s possession must be a legal amount under the laws of the jurisdiction in which the purchase occurred, but shall not exceed eight (8) ounces.
  4. The individual must produce a written certification (containing certain information specified by the Order) by a healthcare provider who is licensed to practice medicine and in good standing in Kentucky or in the jurisdiction of the individual’s residence showing the individual has been diagnosed with one of an enumerated list of medical conditions.

The Executive Order becomes effective January 1, 2023.

With this announcement, the Bluegrass State becomes the 38th state to legalize medical cannabis. John Hartford, Earl Scruggs, David Grisman and other pioneers of the “New Grass” revival likely did not expect the green grass to become legal in the home of bluegrass music.  That day has now come.

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