FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky residents will be able to import THC-containing products from surrounding states beginning January 1, 2023, under an executive order Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed Tuesday. The order allows qualified medical patients to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis legally obtained in another state. Until now, only CBD oil was permitted. Beshear also signed a second order regulating the sale of Delta-8 THC, effective November 15, 2022.
“Our citizens should not face criminal punishment for treating certain medical conditions with medical cannabis where the medical cannabis was legally purchased in another state,” said Beshear. The governor also called out the Kentucky General Assembly’s failure to pass a bill legalizing and regulating medical cannabis as his reason for taking executive action, saying “90 percent of Kentuckians support legalizing medical cannabis, yet the legislature has repeatedly failed to do it. Today I took action, signing an executive order allowing those suffering from certain medical conditions to possess and use small amounts of medical cannabis on Jan. 1.”
In June, Beshear named 17 individuals to lead a medical cannabis advisory committee tasked with helping him find a path to provide medical cannabis access to Kentuckians suffering from chronic pain and other medical conditions. According to the governor, his committee received more than 3,500 public comments, with 98.6 percent in support of legalizing medical cannabis.
Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and Committee Co-Chair Kerry Harvey reported on the committee’s findings over a Zoom meeting in August. “We heard from a number of people, Governor, that were able to go to Illinois or go to some other state surrounding us and secure the cannabis legally in that state. They were concerned that, once they crossed the border, they went from being a patient to being a criminal, to put it bluntly. I think we would all agree that, after hearing from these people, they are not criminals; they’re people who are looking for help,” said Harvey.
Kentucky shares a border with seven other states, of which five have legalized either medical or recreational cannabis. And with the exception of the state capital, most of Kentucky’s heavily populated counties are located on or near the state’s border. Neighboring medical states Ohio and West Virginia do not have reciprocity with other states. However, West Virginia does allow out-of-state cancer patients to apply for a medical marijuana card and register for the state’s medical cannabis program. That leaves retail dispensaries near the Kentucky border in Illinois, Missouri, and Virginia poised to capture substantial foot traffic from out-of-state shoppers.
Under the governor’s executive order, qualifying patients will need to possess a written certification by a licensed healthcare provider in Kentucky showing a diagnosis for one of 21 serious medical conditions including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, intractable pain, and terminal illnesses.
Whether Beshear’s order will protect against police action or federal intervention is unclear. Under current Kentucky law, possession of less than eight ounces is a misdemeanor offense with a sentence of up to 45 days in jail and a $250 fine. Trafficking of less than eight ounces is a misdemeanor on the first offense, with a sentence of up to one year and a $500 fine. The governor’s executive order explicitly grants a “full, complete, and conditional pardon to any and all persons who after the effective date of this Order are accused of possession of marijuana” under the conditions he outlined. But it does not offer any protection from arrest or prosecution.
Today I signed an executive order that will allow Kentuckians with certain severe medical conditions to possess and use small amounts of medical cannabis if the following conditions are met.
Read more on the plan, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023: https://t.co/bPRDMLdCxY pic.twitter.com/7qU8WyywBf
— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) November 15, 2022
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) immediately clapped back, saying Beshear does not have the legal authority to sidestep the state legislature. “Time and time again, the governor has attempted to bypass the policy-making authority of the General Assembly. Today’s executive orders regarding medical marijuana and Delta 8 are another example of his attitude toward governing,” said Cameron. “As always, he seems to relish ruling by decree instead of by the law. Kentucky’s General Assembly is the sole and final policy-making body of this state, and they must be allowed to have their say. We are reviewing these executive orders to determine next steps.”
Beshear also signed a second executive order to regulate the sale of Delta-8, referencing the Boone Circuit Court’s August 3, 2022, decision stating Delta-8 THC and any products containing the cannabinoid were legally compliant as long as they’re not accompanied by Delta-9.
According to Beshear’s order, the Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will establish the same measures being used for CBD packaging, labeling, and methods of use to “ensure the safety of those purchasing and consuming [Delta-8] products and will establish a regulatory framework that in the future may be applied to medical cannabis if the Kentucky General Assembly legalizes it.”