Kentucky Launches Medical Marijuana Applications Six Months Early, Governor Announces | Turn 420
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Kentucky Launches Medical Marijuana Applications Six Months Early, Governor Announces



Kentucky will start accepting license applications for prospective medical marijuana businesses beginning next week—six months ahead of schedule—the governor announced on Thursday.

Just over a year after signing a medical cannabis legalization bill into law, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said regulators will start taking medical marijuana business license applications on Monday, July 1.

“This administration has been working hard to expedite the timeline for making medical cannabis available to Kentuckians with serious medical conditions,” Beshear said in a press release. “I am pleased to report that Team Kentucky will begin accepting applications from prospective medical cannabis businesses beginning next Monday, July 1–a full 6 months ahead of schedule.”

The governor also announced that the state Board of Medical Licensure and Board of Nursing will be simultaneously start issuing permits for doctors and nurses to issue medical cannabis recommendations to patients at the beginning of next month.

“We are excited that the program will be able to issue licenses in 2024 rather than 2025,” Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said. “From its inception, the program has been focused on ensuring patients with serious medical conditions like cancer, PTSD, multiple sclerosis and other symptoms and conditions have safe access to medical cannabis.”

The expedited timeline was made possible under a bill Beshear signed in April.

“The program is also focused on ensuring cannabis business licensing is fair and transparent,” Sam Flynn, executive director of the Kentucky Medical Cannabis Program, said. “To do so, the program has partnered with the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, to issue medical cannabis business licenses using a lottery system. Other states have also adopted this approach. Kentucky’s first license lottery will be held this October.”

“It is also critical that our cannabis business licensing framework ensures the new industry is both stable and sustainable—with an emphasis on small business—and provides product growth to meet cardholder demand,” he said.

Before lawmakers passed medical marijuana legalization legislation, the governor took 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.

He was also invited to participate in a historic roundtable discussion at the White House in March 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 unanimously voted to recommend the addition of more than a dozen new conditions to qualify patients for medical cannabis.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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

This January, Kentucky lawmakers filed marijuana legislation with a notable bill number: HB 420. If passed, it would have legalized and regulated cannabis for adults 21 and older, though it did not advance 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. It too died, however.

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.

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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