On March 31, 2023, Gov. Andy Beshear (D), signed medical cannabis legislation into law. Kentucky is now the 38th state with a comprehensive medical cannabis law. On March 30, 2023, in a 66-33 vote, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed SB 47, in a 66-33 vote. Earlier in March, the comprehensive medical cannabis bill. Senate approved the bill had already passed the bill in a 26-11 vote.
Gov. Beshear also signed Executive Order #2022-798 in November 2022 that providing some protections for medical patients who bought cannabis where it is legal.
Regulations are due by July 1, 2024, and the law will take effect on January 1, 2025. SB 47 does not allow the smoking of raw cannabis but raw cannabis for vaporization is allowed. The list of qualifying conditions includes PTSD and “chronic, severe, intractable, or debilitating pain.” It also provides for additional conditions to be approved administratively. For more details, check out MPP’s summary of the legislation.
Kentucky is one of 19 states that doesn’t even have a decriminalization law
While 31 other states have either legalized cannabis for adults or reduced the penalty for simple possession to a fine, Kentucky continues to arrest thousands of its residents every year for cannabis possession. Possessing even the smallest amount of cannabis in Kentucky carries up to 45 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250. In addition to the trauma and disruption of an arrest, criminal records derail lives, making it very difficult to get an education, housing, jobs, and professional and occupational licensing.
Compounding the injustice, cannabis laws are unequally enforced. Half of adults acknowledge having used cannabis, but enforcement is staggeringly unequal. Kentucky also has the worst racial disparities in the nation, with an ACLU report finding Black individuals are 9.4 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as white individuals, despite similar use rates.
Good news! The Kentucky House of Representatives passed HB 136 — a compressive medical cannabis bill — yesterday, with a vote of 59-34. First, a House floor amendment added PTSD to the covered conditions.