Beshear fills out Kentucky medical marijuana committee

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday announced a 17-member task force he said will help guide his administration toward allowing residents to obtain medical marijuana to treat chronic pains and illnesses.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey and Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Ray Perry will co-chair what’s being called the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee.

Other task force members include medical doctors, marijuana advocates, attorneys and experts on addiction. In a video statement posted Tuesday, Beshear said there was substantial interest from Kentuckians in serving on the panel.

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The committee will meet soon to set up a series of town hall forums across the state to garner public feedback from residents, local leaders and other advocates. Committee members will serve as the “ears of the administration,” the governor said in the video.

“Polling suggests 90% of Kentucky adults support legalizing medical cannabis, while at the same time, far too many in our state who could benefit from it are suffering. It is simply time that something more is done,” Beshear said in a statement. “I want to make sure every voice is heard as I am weighing executive action that could provide access to medical cannabis in the commonwealth.”

Those unable to attend the forums can still share their thoughts online as the state also launched on Tuesday.

In April, Beshear said he would establish the group after the General Assembly failed to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana before the 2022 session ended.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana passed the state House with bipartisan support. However, it failed to get a vote in the Senate, where leaders there have expressed concerns about federal drug laws, which still consider marijuana a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, drugs under that classification have no “currently accepted” medical use and a “high potential for abuse.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has also criticized ideas to legalize medical marijuana for tax purposes, noting Kentucky does not tax medications.

State lawmakers, though, did agree to establish a research center at the University of Kentucky to further study medical marijuana.

Currently, 37 states have legalized marijuana for either medicinal and/or recreational use. That includes neighboring states Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.

“Other states are providing it,” Beshear said in the video. “So should we.”