Kentucky will be getting its very own cannabis center thanks to a move taken by Governor Andy Beshear, reported the Associated Press. Beshear also assesses his authority to pass medical marijuana by taking executive action.
The bill, which authorized the creation of a marijuana research facility at the University of Kentucky, received positive responses from legislators upon the final voting in April.
Beshear, a Democrat, reviewed the bill and retained provisions establishing the center, and used his veto authority to expand the facility’s coverage, including more flexibility, especially in assembling a board.
One of the line items he vetoed is the suggestion that University of Kentucky officials should be short-listed for advisory board membership. The list of people to be considered also includes medical professionals.
Another part of the bill he vetoed includes language that could limit the facilities’ activities and state funding qualifications.
“I am vetoing these parts because they limit the purpose of the center and dictate who the president of the University of Kentucky should consider appointing to the advisory board after giving the president of the university sole appointing power. I am also vetoing these parts because ongoing appropriations may be necessary.”
According to the Associated Press, Beshear’s line-item vetoes will remain in the bill because the legislature, which is majorly Republican, will reconvene only on January 2023, which is the schedule of its impending regular session.
It is important to note that the research center was pushed by lawmakers who were not in favor of medical marijuana legalization, seeing the facility as an alternative for access to marijuana medication for patients.
The legislators believe that the establishment of the center will give them time to investigate the potential of marijuana in serving as a treatment aid for specific medical conditions.
A WHAS 11 report said that the government considers the research facility an important step. However, he would not wait for findings from the center before making considerations about medical cannabis.
Beshear said, “I think we need to move toward legalization, even as the center gets up and going. There’s a lot of research out there already. It’s OK that we want to be a part of future research. But it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to stall that momentum.”
A similar bill intending to make medical cannabis legal has reached the House but was stopped in Senate just this year. If it passed, it could have made marijuana medications legal for various illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, cancer, and epilepsy, among others.
It must be noted that numerous studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of marijuana on some ailments. More than 30 states have also launched their respective medical marijuana programs.
The lack of favorable response on the part of the Senate urged governor Beshear to review other options that can push the legalization of medical marijuana, particularly through executive action. He plans to create a medical marijuana program complete with regulations as to who would be able to access such medications for which medical conditions.
Concerning this, Beshear is also moving to assemble an advisory team dedicated to finding out the public opinion on MMJ in May. This process is expected to be completed within a few months, hopefully in the Summer.
The governor is optimistic about Kentuckians’ feedback on medical marijuana. The team has set up a website aiming to connect with its constituents regarding the matter. The office has obtained 1,100 positive answers from residents through this website.
While he has been thinking of taking executive actions if permitted, the Beshear’s veto message did not pertain to the ongoing evaluations of the prospective executive order that would legalize medical marijuana.
Some GOP lawmakers have taken issue on the matter, criticizing Beshear’s consideration of executive action after the previous bill died in the legislature.
Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, urged residents to consider being alarmed by the governor’s potential move thinking that “he can change statute by executive order.”
Stivers added, “He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statute by executive order because it’s a constitutional separation of powers violation.”
Beshear is intent on taking steps toward legalization as seen in his moves to analyze public opinion and the possibility of taking executive action. He also addressed the criticisms he received from Republicans saying that the same people who are against him signing an executive order to legalize medical marijuana are the same people that stopped its legalization in the first place.
Marijuana Biz Daily has noted that Beshear asked the legislature to give him a bill that would make Kentucky one of the many states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, the failure of the previous bill that died in the Senate made Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer say that medical cannabis is “done for the year” citing insufficient support as the reason. It is important to note that the supermajority in both House and Senate are GOP members.
Kentucky Marijuana Laws in a Nutshell
Kentucky is among the states that have not adopted medical marijuana measures for its residents. It also has not passed a measure decriminalizing marijuana statewide. However, there are a few local jurisdictions that have taken steps to decriminalize the plant at different levels, with some fully lowering penalties for minor offenses.
Typically, minor possession in KY localities is carrying less than eight ounces of marijuana, which is considered a misdemeanor, which can lead to a jail time of 45 days and a maximum of $250 in fines.
The state also has conditional release policies, which offer alternative sentencing for individuals facing their first marijuana charge. Conditional release typically allows people to choose probationary penalties instead of going to court. Completing probation means that the charge does not appear on the person’s criminal record.
Tax stamps are also implemented in KY, requiring individuals with marijuana on their person to purchase and have state-issued stamps on the illegal goods. Without these stamps, the person could face penalties ranging from a fine or a trial.
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