In a historic move, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order on November 15 that allows patients and caregivers to buy medical marijuana. But here's the rub. They have to go to a legal medical or recreational state to purchase pot and bring receipts back as proof. Kentucky borders med state Ohio to the north, med state West Virginia to the East and rec state Illinois to the West. Most Kentuckians would have to travel major distances to score weed.
Frustrated with the the failure of the state legislature to take action, Beshear had no other choice. "What we're trying to do is take a measured step to help those that are struggling, while ensuring they can purchase from a safe and reliable place," he commented. "And ultimately, nobody should feel like a criminal when they can legally purchase it in one of our neighboring states and use it."
In the order, Beshear notes "past efforts to legalize medical cannabis through legislation have failed in the General Assembly, including during the 2020 Regular Session and the 2022 Regular Session when bills passed the House of Representatives, but did not reach debate in the Senate."
The order reads, in part:
1. The medical cannabis shall have been lawfully purchased within the United States of America but outside of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
2. The individual shall produce a written proof of purchase that shows the place of purchase, the physical location of the place and the date of purchase.
3. The amount of medical cannabis in the individual's possession shall 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 or the individual's caretaker shall provide a written certification by a healthcare provider who is licensed to practise medicine in the Commonwealth of Kentucky or in the jurisdiction of the individual's residence that shows that the individual has been diagnosed with at least one of the following (21) medical conditions:
Cancer, amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, epilepsy, intractable seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, severe and chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, cachexia or wasting syndrome, neuropathies, severe arthritis, hepatitis C, fibromyalgia, intractable pain, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), glaucoma and a terminal illness.
Effective January 1, Beshear's order grants "a full, complete and conditional pardon to any and all persons who are accused of possession of marijuana under KRS 218A.1422."
While each of the 37 states that have passed medical-marijuana laws did so via ballot initiatives or legislation, Kentucky is the first to take the executive action approach. It sounds good but won't provide much accesss. Ohio and West Virginia don't allow out-of-state patients to purchase cannabis. Illinois is a better option for those living in the Western part of the state.
Kentucky has a long history as a hemp producer, but has failed to either decriminalize, medicalize or legalize marijuana . . . until now, becoming the 38th medical state thanks to a persistent Democratic governor.