Gov. Andy Beshear revealed plans for a medical marijuana review on Thursday, signaling that he plans to take matters into his own hands to legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky.
The Democratic governor said he would seek input from the grassroots as his legal team explores his potential options for making medical marijuana legally accessible. He made a direct appeal to Kentuckians for their input. It came a week after the last bill to legalize medical cannabis died in the state Senate after it passed the House. Republicans have supermajorities in both houses.
“I want to be clear, I’m for medical cannabis,” Beshear said during his weekly press conference. “I want it done the right way. And we’re going to be looking very closely at our legal options. And at the same time, we want to hear from you.
For much of the pandemic, the governor has aggressively exercised his executive powers to order restrictions to try to curb the spread of the virus. These actions ultimately sparked a strong backlash from Republican lawmakers, who limited the governor’s emergency powers.
A top lawmaker and the attorney general warned Thursday that the governor risks overstepping his authority by taking executive action to unilaterally legalize medical marijuana.
“The General Assembly is the decision-making body of this state, and we have seen the problems that arise when the governor tries to circumvent the legislature and make unilateral policy decisions,” Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement. Thursday.
Republican Senate Speaker Robert Stivers said Kentuckians should be concerned that the governor “thinks he can change the law by executive order.”
“He just can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t replace a statue with an executive order because it’s a constitutional violation of the separation of powers,” Stivers said.
Beshear faulted lawmakers for not “getting the job done,” saying he would rather the legislature pass a measure legalizing medical marijuana. He said such legislation has strong statewide support and that Kentucky has fallen behind the majority of states that have made medical cannabis available as an alternative to opioid medication.
“I believe it is my duty to see what is possible, given the will of the people and their desire to move forward,” the governor said.
Beshear said he tasked his office’s legal team with analyzing potential options for executive action that could create a framework to make medical cannabis available to people with certain medical conditions. In other states, he said, people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder can see their health care providers. health care to access medical cannabis to help treat their symptoms.
Beshear said he is creating a medical cannabis advisory team, which will travel across the state to gather public input. Kentucky residents may also express their views directly to the governor’s office by emailing GovMedicalCannabisAdvisoryTeam@ky.gov.
The governor said the review would span the next two months.
“It has to be done well,” he said. “And I believe we have an opportunity to put the right regulatory framework in place where we don’t see abuse. And that gives us a chance over the next two months to be thoughtful. But we will consider action and a culmination in a form of action depending on our legal options.
Cameron later said it would be premature to comment on the validity of any potential executive action on medical marijuana until the governor releases details of his intended action.
Before the GOP-led Legislature wrapped up its 60-day session last week, lawmakers passed a bill to create a Cannabis Research Center to study the use of cannabis to treat certain medical conditions. It was proposed as an alternative to the stalled bill legalizing medical marijuana. The legalization bill would have strictly regulated the use of cannabis for a list of qualifying medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy and chronic nausea.