|Business Insider map provided by Beshear’s office, adapted by Ky. Health News|
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
After a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky failed again in the legislature, Gov. Andy Beshear announced a plan to ask Kentuckians how he might address the issue through executive action.
“This session, like the last one and many before, the General Assembly did not get the job done, despite broad support from the public,” Beshear said at his regular weekly news conference. A medical cannabis bill again passed the House this year but couldn’t even get a committee hearing in the Senate.
The Democratic governor, who is seeking re-election next year, said his move isn’t political.
“This issue’s time has come,” he said. “I think it’s pretty clear where everybody falls on it. I believe if it had been given a committee vote, depending on the committee, it would have passed. If it would have been brought to the floor, it would have passed. You know, it’s time that a couple of individuals that are out of touch with the vast majority of Kentuckians on this issue. Stop obstructing it, and we’re able to move forward.”
Senate President Robert Stivers has long said that he believes more research is needed before such a bill should pass. The Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill to create a cannabis research center, but the medical cannabis bill went nowhere in the Senate after passing the House 59-34.
Stivers issued a statement saying, “The public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change statute by executive order. He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statue by executive order because it’s a constitutional separation-of-powers violation.”
Beshear said, “We’re looking through our legal options right now. If someone has just told you carte blanche, it’s, it’s against the law, then they haven’t done the full analysis as we are looking at what different options there are out there.”
He said he did not have an example of another state that had done this by executive action, and offered no details on what legalizing medical cannabis that way would look like, but outlined a plan to explore how it could be accomplished that would seek input from Kentuckians.
First, his lawyers will analyze options under the law regarding executive action on medical cannabis; then a Governor’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Team will travel the state to hear from Kentuckians; and they will have an e-mail address to communicate with him about it: GovMedicalCannabisAdvisoryTeam@ky.gov.
Beshear noted a long list of medical conditions that can be treated by cannabis, and stressed that 37 states, plus Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Washington, D.C., already allow it for medical use and said it’s time for Kentucky to do the same.
“We are actually behind Mississippi,” he said. “This time, we can’t make that joke. Mississippi was actually the latest state to permit the use, and their legislature had the courage that ours did not.”
The bill that would create the research center and do several other things, HB 604, passed on the last day of the session. It would create the Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Kentucky, which would get $2 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Stivers noted that Beshear has had the bill for a week and still hasn’t signed it.