Health Kentucky Politics

Kentucky is easing restrictions on residents who leave the state to access medical marijuana in places where it’s legal.

Flanked by a doctor, military veteran and a former federal prosecutor, Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday signed two executive orders aimed at helping those struggling with chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The first would protect Kentuckians who travel to states where medical cannabis been decriminalized. Consumers would have to meet specific conditions like purchasing no more than eight ounces at a time, maintaining a receipt of purchase and having medical documentation of 21 qualifying illnesses, including epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and terminal illness.

Beshear said the goal is to help chronic sufferers manage pain without the threat of opioid addiction.

“I have seen the devastation of opioids. In 2021, we lost 2,250 Kentuckians to a drug overdose,” Beshear said. “A recent study showed a 64% reduction in opioid use among chronic pain patients who used medical cannabis, yet for years, including this past legislative session, medical cannabis has failed to pass, even as nearly 90% of Kentuckians now favor it.”

The second executive order regulates the sale of Delta-8, which contains THC, but at a lower level than marijuana. While it’s not a controlled substance under state or federal law, the state currently has no checks and balances on how Delta-8 is packaged and sold.

Beshear said the executive action is no substitute for what he called much-needed legislation. The Democratic governor said he’ll press lawmakers next session for full legalization of medical cannabis, which is the case in all but two of Kentucky’s seven surrounding states.

The executive orders take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.