Kentucky marijuana laws

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has signed legislation, House Bill 829, into law amending aspects of the state’s nascent medical cannabis access program.

Specifically, it expedites the licensing process for medical cannabis businesses. As initially passed last year, the law delayed regulators from licensing cannabis providers until January 1, 2025. Under the newly signed law, applicants can begin the process of applying for licensure as soon as July 1, 2024.

However, separate provisions in the new law will likely restrict some patients’ ability to access medical cannabis products. For example, HB 829 subjects patients to criminal background checks prior to entering the state’s cannabis registry. Those patients with certain criminal records are disqualified from participating in the program. No other state imposes such patient restrictions.

Other provisions in the bill provide school administrators the ability to prohibit students registered in the program from accessing medical cannabis products while on school grounds, and mandate physicians to perform a complete intake of a patients’ prescription drug history prior to issuing a medical cannabis recommendation.

Efforts to include language in the law expanding the pool of qualifying conditions for which doctors may recommend medical cannabis products were unsuccessful.

Lauren Bratcher, Deputy Director of Kentucky NORML — who worked closely with lawmakers to pass the 2023 law — strongly criticized the new, restrictive provisions. “House Bill 829 introduces burdensome provisions that will likely hinder patients’ ability to access medical cannabis,” she said. “These include background checks for patients, redundant regulations, and other requirements that will limit patients’ participation in the program. While expediting timelines may seem advantageous, the potential negatives embedded within the bill outweigh any perceived benefits. Patient access and rights must take precedence over expediency.”

Additional information is available from Kentucky NORML.

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