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Gov. Beshear Signs Historic Legislation Legalizing Medical Cannabis

From the Office of Governor Andy Beshear -

As part of his effort to reduce Kentuckians’ reliance on addictive opioids and to provide relief from severe and chronic pain, Gov. Andy Beshear joined lawmakers and advocates to sign Senate Bill 47, which legalizes medical cannabis in the commonwealth.

“In November, I signed an executive order to help Kentuckians with certain medical conditions, like our veterans suffering from PTSD, find safe and effective relief through medical cannabis,” Gov. Beshear said. “Now, I am finally able to sign this legislation into law and fully legalize medical cannabis – something the majority of Kentuckians support.” The bill establishes a structure to regulate the medical cannabis program, including dispensaries, cultivators, practitioners, processors and products and issuing identification cards to patients and caregivers. The bill establishes the authorization process for practitioners to recommend the use of medicinal cannabis and establishes the cannabis business license application process and requirements.

“I am very happy to be here with friends to celebrate this special day. The signing of SB 47 comes after about five years of hard-fought legislative efforts,” said bill sponsor Sen. Stephen West of Paris. “This bill is how the legislative process should work. Senate Bill 47 is probably one of the most vetted bills in the history of the General Assembly, going through numerous committees being worked and reworked numerous times. I am proud to be a part of that effort.” “It is a true honor to be here today to celebrate this momentous legislation. For far too long, we have had to depend on the pharmaceutical companies pushing substances that have been a bane to rural Kentucky. I come from Eastern Kentucky, and I have seen firsthand the devastation that opioids have brought on my region,” said Sen. Phillip Wheeler of Pikeville. “I came here late to the issue, but I am glad I jumped on board and was able to play a small part in getting it over the finish line.” “This is how it is supposed to be done. I am filled with emotion. There are thousands and thousands of Kentuckians who just want to be and want to feel better. This will help them with that,” said Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville. “This is such a good bill because there will be tens of thousands of Kentuckians who will never know our names, who have never walked these halls, but will be helped. I am happy to have played a small part in that.”

This legislation is another step forward in the Governor’s effort to provide relief to Kentuckians with severe medical conditions and to reduce the abuse of opioids. While Senate Bill 47 does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2025, the Governor’s executive order remains in effect, allowing those suffering from some medical conditions the ability to obtain medical cannabis out of state until that time.

On Nov. 15, 2022, the Governor issued an executive order providing access to medical cannabis for Kentuckians who suffer from at least one of 21 medical conditions. These conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, muscular dystrophy and terminal illness, as well as others.

Following his executive order, the Governor worked with lawmakers this session to push for full legalization of medical cannabis to further provide relief for those suffering, to fuel job growth and to support Kentucky’s farmers.

In June 2022, Gov. Beshear formed the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee to travel the state and listen to Kentuckians’ views on the topic. On Sept. 30, 2022, the Governor released the summary from the committee that proved Kentuckians agree that it is past time for the commonwealth to take action on legalizing medical cannabis.

A total of 37 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands allow cannabis for medical use by qualified individuals. In May 2021, Alabama legalized medical cannabis. Last year, Mississippi and Rhode Island did the same. Kentucky’s neighboring states of Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and West Virginia have also legalized medical cannabis.

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