Legalization of medical marijuana takes first step in Kentucky

Medical marijuana buds in large prescription bottle with branded cap on black background

On Wednesday, Kentucky lawmakers voted in committee to move forward on the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. The vote in the House Judiciary Committee marks the first step in a very long legislative process.

House Bill 136, sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes, would allow for the prescription of marijuana for medicinal use. The sponsor said he brought the bill forward to help give relief to many Kentuckians suffering from conditions that could be helped by cannabis for medicinal use.

Tax revenue would not be collected from the sale of medical marijuana, just like other prescription drugs in Kentucky. So, the state would not see any significant bump in revenue because of this law. An excise tax of 12% would be implemented for cultivators and processors for selling to dispensaries and portions of that money would go to a program to help low-income Kentuckians afford the product and 13.5% of the tax revenue going to local law enforcement.

Medical marijuana is not covered by any form of insurance including private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare.

The bill was passed out of committee Wednesday with a committee substitute that changed the bill in many ways to tighten the language.

Patients with conditions determined by a panel of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist would be able to get a prescription for medical cannabis and fill it at a dispensary. That same panel would be responsible for making recommendations for things like the definition of a 30-day supply of the medication. Under the bill, smoking of marijuana, even for medical purposes, is prohibited.

Regulatory responsibility for the medical marijuana program would be overseen by the Department for Public Health and the department would have a biennial accreditation process for cannabis businesses for the utilization of continuous quality improvement standards. There is also language in the bill related to protections for Kentucky businesses.

Under the bill, patients would need to consult with a pharmacist regarding potential drug interactions between medical cannabis and other drugs they are taking.

In terms of the kinds of business licenses that would exist under the bill, there would be 15 cultivator licenses, 25 dispensary licenses, five processor licenses, and three producer licenses.

There are many other aspects of the bill detailing how the medical marijuana program would work if implemented in the state.

During the committee hearing on the issue, bill sponsor Jason Nemes asked his fellow legislators to consider what they would do if they were told by a doctor that a loved one had a condition that could be helped by the use of medical marijuana. Nemes added he would break the current law in a “New York minute” to help a loved one but wants to see this law pass so those individuals don’t have to be criminals in their own state.

The bill passed with only one no vote and one pass vote. House Bill 136 now moves to the full House for a vote on the floor.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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