The Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee met for the first time on Monday to discuss their responsibilities and two upcoming town hall meetings.
The first town hall meeting is set for July 6, in Pikeville, Kentucky. The meeting will be in the University of Pikeville’s Health Professions Education Building.
The second town hall meeting is slated for July 19 at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in Frankfort.
Both are scheduled to run 90 minutes. Two additional meetings will be scheduled at a later date.
The committee will travel around the state, gathering opinions on the medical cannabis issue and provide feedback to the governor’s office.
Gov. Andy Beshear created the committee last week through an executive order. The 17-member board is composed of attorneys, university professors, medical cannabis advocates, members of law enforcement, and health care professionals.
Secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet Ray Perry and Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Kerry Harvey were named co-chairs of the panel.
Members will serve on the committee for two years, according to the executive order.
“We start with a committee of people that really bring a wide array of experience and expertise to the project,” Harvey told The Courier Journal. “You have medical people, pharmacy people, you have people that know a lot about substance abuse disorders, and you have people with very deep experience in law enforcement and prosecution. The committee itself can provide a great deal of useful information.”
The goal of the group, according to Harvey and Beshear’s office, is to listen to the people of Kentucky and bring their perspectives on medical cannabis back to the governor and other officials.
“Our plan is to go to different parts of the state and really just to have open town hall meetings so that anyone who is interested or concerned about this issue can provide the committee and ultimately the governor with not only their point of view, but their experience,” Harvey said.
For those unable to attend the town hall meetings, Beshear’s office created a website for users to submit their thoughts on medical cannabis.
In his executive order, Beshear said, “Allowing Kentuckians diagnosed with certain medical conditions and receiving palliative care to cultivate, purchase, possess and/or use medical cannabis would improve the quality of their lives and may help reduce abuse of other more dangerous and addictive medications, such as opioids.”
Overdose deaths in Kentucky have risen dramatically in recent years—2,250 deaths were reported in 2021, as stated by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, compared to 1,316 in 2019.
“It would also improve Kentucky’s economy by bringing new jobs and businesses to the Commonwealth, as well as supporting Kentucky farmers,” Beshear continued.
A total of 38 other states have already legalized medical cannabis, including Ohio—which, earlier this year, reported that its medical cannabis program had generated about $725 million in revenue.
Earlier attempts to legalize medical cannabis in Kentucky occurred in 2020 and 2022.
In 2020, a bill led by Rep. Jason Nemes (R) received 65 votes in the House chamber but stalled in the Senate due to a lack of support by Republican members and a shortened session due to COVID-19.
In March of this year, the Kentucky House of Representatives voted 59-34 to pass a medical cannabis bill, HB 136. Senate leadership stalled this effort soon thereafter.
In April, Beshear approved legislation to establish a cannabis research center at the University of Kentucky. According to HB 604, the new facility will be tasked with planning and conducting research “to advance the study of the use of cannabis and cannabis derivatives for the treatment of certain medical conditions and diseases.”