Kentucky House approves medical cannabis legalization measure

A limited medical cannabis bill has been approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives with a vote of 59-34.

The measure’s passage occurred on Thursday, March 17. Now, it makes its way to the Republican-led Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

As per the legal language contained in Kentucky House Bill 136, medical cannabis would be legalized on a statewide level.

If the law passes, local commissions and county courts could gain the authority to forbid medical cannabis businesses from operating across the State of Kentucky.

Nonetheless, the bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes (R) indicates that urban regions in those counties would also be allowed to opt-in for medical cannabis retail facilities; and related operations.

The proposal made its way through the full chamber approximately one week after clearing the House Judiciary Committee. Its floor vote came in at 59-34.

Meanwhile, two distinct recreational and medical cannabis legalization bills were submitted by Democratic lawmakers in February.

Medical cannabis in Kentucky: About HB 136

Under the terms of HB 136, the home-growing of cannabis and the smoking of raw cannabis flower would be outlawed across the state.

Although Kentucky’s medical cannabis bill has been described as “restrictive,” HB 136 would still permit patients to consume whole-plant products. However, those products must be vaporized by patients.

The list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in Kentucky would include (but would not be limited to) the following:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic nausea/Cyclical vomiting 
  • Epilepsy 
  • Seizure disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • PTSD
  • Chronic/severe/intractable or debilitating pain

Medical cannabis in Kentucky: What else does the 141-page bill cover?

If the 141-page bill is approved and officially enacted into law, several license types would be made available to Kentuckians, including licenses for producers, dispensaries, processors, safety compliance facilities and four different cultivation tiers.

Hours of intense debate took place before the House decided to pass Kentucky’s medical cannabis bill. One of the main concerns that arose related to the risk of medical cannabis legalization encouraging more people to use and seek out the plant for recreational purposes.

However, the bill’s main sponsor, Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, emphasized the fact that the medical cannabis bill was developed with restrictions so as to attract enough support to pass. Moreover, Nemes noted that he is against recreational cannabis legalization.

During 2020, a bill not dissimilar to the latest bill was approved by the Kentucky House with a vote of 65-30, but it failed to receive a vote from the Senate. Fortunately, the Judiciary Committee recently embraced an alternative version before pushing the legislation in the direction of a floor vote. 

Included in the substitute version is a rule stipulating that physician assistants would be allowed to apply for cannabis-advising certification. 

Furthermore, the legislation proposes granting licensing boards the power to “intervene” in the event that a doctor is cannabis-impaired, updating legal language related to fees for authorization to recommend medical cannabis and providing “medicinal cannabis consultation services to cardholders.

The House approved a different measure on March 17 to establish a Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research that would be tasked with financially supporting investigations into “the effects of cannabis, the efficacy and potential health effects of various cannabis delivery models,” to name a few things.

Sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Moser (R), the bill received a floor vote of 93-0.