Kentucky Budget Bill On Governor’s Desk Would Restrict Medical Marijuana Funding Ahead Of Program Launch - Read of Green
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Kentucky Budget Bill On Governor’s Desk Would Restrict Medical Marijuana Funding Ahead Of Program Launch

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Kentucky’s legislature has delivered a budget bill to the governor that includes a provision restricting funding for a medical marijuana regulatory body overseeing the state’s forthcoming program until its advisory board determines there’s a “propensity” of research supporting the therapeutic “efficacy” of cannabis.

The language represents a watered down version of what was included in the Senate budget proposal, which would have set a much stricter threshold for the availability of funding for the Office of Medical Cannabis.

A last-minute amendment that was adopted prior to passage on Thursday removed Senate-approved language that would have broadly required a “propensity of federal and international peer reviewed, published research with conclusive evidence as to the efficacy of medical cannabis” in order to fund the regulatory division.

Still, the final revised language would still impose a potential barrier to standing up Kentucky’s medical marijuana program:

“No funds shall become available until the Board of Physicians and Advisors, as defined in KRS 218B.020(2), finds there is a propensity of peer-reviewed, published research with sufficient evidence as to the efficacy of medical cannabis for the persistent reduction of symptoms of diseases and conditions.”

What constitutes a “propensity” and “sufficient evidence” seems to be subjective without explicit definitions, meaning the roughly $8 million in proposed funding for the cannabis regulatory office could be withheld without sign-off from the seven-member advisory board.

In any case, the budget legislation is now in Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) court. He not only advocated for and signed the medical cannabis bill that’s since become law, but he’s also taken executive action to legally protect patients who possess medical cannabis purchased at out-of-state licensed retailers by exercising his unilateral authority to grant pardons to anyone who meets certain criteria.

Accordingly, he was invited to participate in a historic roundtable discussion at the White House this month alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and pardon recipients who received clemency under President Joe Biden’s pardon proclamations.

After Biden issued his first pardon proclamation in October 2022, Beshear said he was “actively considering” possible marijuana clemency actions the state could take and encouraged people to petition for relief in the interim. In 2021, he also talked about his desire to let Kentucky farmers grow and sell recreational cannabis across state lines.

The governor has separately urged lawmakers to expand the medical marijuana program, announcing in January that two independent advisory groups he appointed have unanimously voted to recommend the addition of more than a dozen new conditions to qualify patients for medical cannabis.

With respect to the budget bill now on Beshear’s desk, under Kentucky’s Constitution the governor wields line-item veto authority for appropriations legislation, so he could theoretically delete the provision on restricting Office of Medical Cannabis funding. Marijuana Moment reached out to his office for comment, but representatives were not immediately available.

Meanwhile, there’s another bill advancing through the legislature that seeks to impose other restrictions on medical cannabis access through the program that’s set to launch. The House-passed legislation, which is currently going through the committee process in the Senate, would subject prospective medical cannabis patients to a background check in order to qualify, among other limitations.

Sen. Stephen West (R) has also proposed legislation to expedite the licensing process for marijuana operators and expand the list of qualifying conditions as recommended by the governor’s independent advisory groups. Rep. Jason Nemes (R) expects an alternative version he’s pushing to advance that would similarly streamline licensing but would not include the expanded qualifying conditions language.

In January, Kentucky lawmakers filed marijuana legislation with a notable bill number: HB 420. If passed, it would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults 21 and older, though few expect the proposal to get through in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature this session.

A more limited legalization measure, HB 72, was introduced earlier that month by Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D). It would end all penalties for simple possession and use of marijuana by adults 21 and older and also allow adults to grow a small number of cannabis plants at home. Commercial sales, however, would remain prohibited.

Last year, Kulkarni introduced a measure that would have let voters decide whether to legalize use, possession and home cultivation. The lawmaker previously introduced a similar noncommercial legalization proposal for the 2022 legislative session.

Hawaii Lawmakers Advance Bill To Expand State’s Marijuana Decriminalization Law As Broader Legalization Hangs In The Balance

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

Source: Marijuana Moment

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