Kentucky Governor Takes Issue With Senate Inaction on Medical Cannabis

As the Kentucky General Assembly—specifically the Senate—has sat idle on enacting medical policy reform for yet another session, Gov. Andy Beshear said April 21 that he’s considering taking executive action to effectuate change.

House lawmakers cruised to passage of a bill that aimed at allowing doctors to prescribe medical to patients for six qualifications by way of a 59-34 vote on March 17. The legislation was sponsored by GOP Rep. Jason Nemes and attracted the co-sponsorship of 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats.

But the Senate killed the bill, again—an earlier version of the passed the House in 2020, before stalling in the Senate, which continued to resist consideration of the issue in 2021 and now in 2022.

Beshear called out that inaction by the upper chamber in his weekly news conference on Thursday.

“This session, like the last one and many before it, the General Assembly did not get the job done despite broad support from the public,” he said.

According to a February 2020 Kentucky Health Issues Poll, nine out of 10 Kentucky adults favor legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.

“It has passed the House the last several years, yet this year, in the Senate, it died,” Beshear said. “It never even got a vote in committee. So, people are ready.”

Previously, the governor said April 7 that he was ready to explore taking action via an executive order should the Senate fail to act. On April 14, the General Assembly adjourned without the Senate taking up Beshear on his request.

Now, the Democratic governor announced April 21 that his administration will be moving forward with a four-step plan on medical cannabis policy:

  • Beshear asked his general counsel to begin analyzing options under the law for the governor to consider regarding executive action on medical cannabis.
  • His administration will establish a Medical Cannabis Advisory Team.
  • He will ask this advisory team to travel around the state and listen to what Kentuckians have to say about medical cannabis.
  • And the governor has established a way for Kentuckians to communicate with his office specifically on the topic. They can email the governor’s office at [email protected].

    “These are four steps in a process about moving forward to make sure that the people of Kentucky are included, that your voice is heard, and that we can take your desires, your advice, your thoughts, as we consider the legal frameworks for executive action,” he said at the news conference.

    But Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers released a statement Thursday evening that said the public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change a state statute by executive orders.

    “He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statue by executive order because it’s a Constitutional separation of powers violation,” Stivers said.

    While the Senate did not act on the House’s medical cannabis legalization bill, Stivers said the General Assembly

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