The governor of Kentucky indicated he would consider taking executive action to pass medical marijuana legislation in the state should lawmakers continue to stall on passing the reform.
Gov. Andy Beshear (D) made the comments in response to a recent House-approved bill to legalize medical cannabis that is now languishing in the Senate with no plans to hold a vote on it as the session comes to a close.
The Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and medical marijuana legislation has cleared the House in previous years but is yet to make any further progress.
When asked if he would issue an executive order to allow medical cannabis access for patients in need of the treatment, Beshear said “We’re going to explore that.”
“It’s something that we will look at. Its time has certainly come,” he added.
The medical cannabis bill that passed the Kentucky House in a 59-34 vote would permit the use of medical marijuana for a set list of eligible conditions. Beshear noted the proposed reform to Kentucky’s marijuana laws enjoys strong support in the state.
“You see people from every part of every spectrum that are in favor of this,” Beshear said.
Senate President Robert Stivers, however, has repeatedly said he wants more research into marijuana’s purported medical benefits before passing any legislation permitting its use. To that end, he has suggested establishing a medical cannabis research center at the University of Kentucky.
“Most definitely, I think there is that desire to help individuals,” Stivers said. “But with any drug, I think you need to have the full-blown studies.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, meanwhile, is staunchly opposed to the reform but recognizes he is in a minority in Kentucky. However, he said if voters don’t agree with his position then they can simply vote him out at the next election.
Thayer believes legal medical cannabis is a backdoor route towards increased recreational use, which he argues would worsen Kentucky’s drug dependency issues. Kentucky has a severe opioid addiction problem, but a significant body of research suggests the use of marijuana is a safe and effective replacement for this highly addictive pain reliever.
The latest medical cannabis bill in Kentucky was introduced by Republican Rep. Jason Nemes and would allow county courts to opt-out of the program though cities in those counties could still choose to be included. The measure would establish four medical marijuana-related business entities – cultivators, processors, dispensaries and safety labs.
But with yet another legislative session coming and going without passing medical cannabis reform in Kentucky, Beshear and allies in favor of the measure in the legislature are now thinking of ways to bypass the Senate in order to get such legislation over the line.