Senate Republicans pass Kentucky’s medical marijuana law in landmark approval

The Kentucky Senate voted Thursday to legalize medical marijuana in the state, delivering a landmark endorsement after years of resisting access to cannabis for people suffering from a range of debilitating diseases.

The measure passed the Senate by a 26-11 vote, sending it to the House of Representatives, which has historically supported medicinal cannabis measures. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.

“This is one of those problems where you take out the ledger and list the pros and cons,” said Republican Sen. Stephen West, the bill’s lead sponsor. “And it’s a long list on both sides. But for me personally, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”


Republican Senator Gary Boswell opposed the bill, calling cannabis “a drug, not a medicine.” He said the qualifying medical categories listed in the measure were “too broad”.

The dramatic vote came before lawmakers took an extended hiatus to give Gov. Andy Beshear time to consider signing or vetoing stacks of bills sent to him. The house can accommodate them medical marijuana Proposal at the end of March when lawmakers will meet for the last two days of this year’s legislature.

Kentucky State Senator Steve West introduces Senate Bill 47 for final reading in the Kentucky Senate March 16, 2023 in Frankfurt, Germany. West is the lead sponsor of the medical marijuana bill. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, a leading proponent of legalizing medicinal cannabis, has been optimistic about the bill’s chances in the House of Representatives when lawmakers return to the Statehouse.

“We passed it twice (in the House) with very strong majorities, so I can only assume that we’re going to have a very good outlook this year,” he said after the Senate vote.

The measure — Senate Bill 47 — going to the House of Representatives would legalize and regulate medical marijuana.


Under the measure, medicinal cannabis could be prescribed for a specific list of conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy, chronic nausea and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A person would have to be approved for a card allowing their use. A patient under the age of 18 could not possess or purchase medicinal cannabis without the assistance of a designated caregiver.


Most importantly, the bill would not go into effect until early 2025 to give state health officials time to come up with regulations to oversee the program.

Frustrated by years of inaction, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear partially lifted the state ban on medicinal cannabis last year. Beshear’s action allows Kentuckians to own medical cannabis for certain conditions, provided it’s legally purchased in other states. They must keep their receipt for proof and require a certificate from a licensed healthcare provider to confirm they have a qualifying condition.

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