Kentucky is the latest state to take steps to decriminalize marijuana. Last week, Gov. Andy Beshear signed Senate Bill 47, which legalizes medical cannabis. According to a state press release, 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. The law does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2025. However, an executive order Gov. Beshear issued in November 2022 remains in effect. That order allows Kentuckians suffer from at least one of 21 medical conditions—including cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, muscular dystrophy and terminal illness—to obtain medical cannabis out of state.
Gov. Beshear hailed the new legislation as way to reduce Kentuckians’ reliance on addictive opioids and provide relief from severe and chronic pain.
“I am finally able to sign this legislation into law and fully legalize medical cannabis—something the majority of Kentuckians support,” the governor said in a press release.
Local police officers are taking a wait and see attitude.
“Medical Cannabis prescriptions will be handled like any other prescribed medication. That is you must have a prescription and must be in the proper container,” said Chief Timothy Hurt of the Harrodsburg Police Department. “Officers will need to be trained on the specific changes regarding this new legislation.”
The chief was asked for his opinion on how difficult it would make it for police officers.
“Maybe ask me again in six months to a year,” Hurt said.
Sheriff Ernie Kelty said he was all for people with medical conditions being able to use cannabis, but he said, “We have to be careful.”
“There are a lot of questions that I think haven’t been answered yet,” Kelty said. “We’re going to have to wait and see.”
The medicinal use of marijuana—at least by Western physicians—dates back to at least the 1830s, when doctors prescribed cannabis and cannabis extracts for stomach aches, migraines, inflammation, insomnia and even managing the symptoms of cholera, according to Eric Schlosser, author of “Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market.”
However, around the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, Americans’ attitudes towards marijuana began to shift. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed the drug, and in 1937, the U.S. Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937—essentially banning marijuana—despite objections from the American Medical Association. According to Becky Little on History.com, the act would be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969 but one year later Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which prohibited even the medical use of marijuana. During the War on Drugs, the U.S. began to imprison more people than any other nation on the face of the Earth, nearly two million people in 2022, according to PrisonPolicy.org.
But opinions have begun to shift again. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to decriminalize marijuana. Today 37 states, Washington D.C. and at least three U.S. territories allow cannabis for medical use by qualified individuals, including Kentucky’s neighboring states of Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and West Virginia.
Current Law For Medical Marijuana
The law Gov. Beshear signed does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2025. However, an executive order issued in November 2022 remains in effect According to the executive order, medical cannabis is legal if it has been lawfully purchased in a jurisdiction within the United States of America but outside of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The amount of medical cannabis in possession cannot exceed eight ounces.
The individual must be able to 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. They must also be able to produce written certification from a licensed healthcare provider that shows the individual has been diagnosed with at least one of the designated medical conditions. This document does constitute a prescription.
The designated conditions include 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 (HlV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); glaucoma; or a terminal illness.