Medical marijuana in Kentucky 2023: What to know about new law – Courier Journal

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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order to partly legalize medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State for certain individuals goes into effect Jan. 1.
Barring any litigation, court rulings or legislation that block the order from going into effect, here is how the governor’s medical marijuana order will work in Kentucky from that day forward.
According to Beshear’s order, individuals within Kentucky who are diagnosed with one of 21 medical conditions could be eligible to possess and use marijuana purchased legally in others states, under certain conditions.
More:Medical marijuana: How Gov. Andy Beshear’s order could impact the GOP, Kentucky politics
Eligible individuals are required to have a written certification from a medical provider licensed in Kentucky or from the resident’s home state with a bona fide patient-provider relationship to them, stating the patient suffers from one of the following medical conditions:
Also eligible to possess, but not use, legally purchased medical marijuana are caregivers for the diagnosed patients. These caregivers must be at least 21 years old and have a “significant responsibility” for managing the patient’s well-being along with a written document indicating their caregiver status. A parent or legal guardian of the patient will not be required to produce a caregiver document.
Eligible people with a valid written certification from a doctor can possess and use marijuana if it is legally purchased in another state and they save the written receipt that shows where and when it was purchased.
Such people may not possess more than eight ounces of marijuana at any given time within Kentucky.
More:Will Kentucky finally pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana? The Senate will decide
As for the written certification from the medical provider, it must contain the name, address and phone number of both the patient and medical provider.
The written certification from the physician must also include their medical license number, a statement indicating they have a bona fide provider-patient relationship, their diagnosis of the medical condition and the provider’s signature and date.
Kentucky is one of just 13 states where it is illegal to purchase either medical or recreational marijuana.
Due to successful ballot initiatives in the 2022 general election in Missouri and Maryland, recreational marijuana will soon be legal in 21 states.
As for the states bordering Kentucky, all but Tennessee and Indiana have at least a legal medical marijuana program. However, the programs of Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Illinois and Missouri do not allow nonresidents to purchase medical marijuana there.
Currently, possession of recreational marijuana is technically legal in Illinois, Virginia and Missouri, though Illinois is the only bordering state where Kentuckians can legally purchase it right now.
Possession of non-medical marijuana became legal in Missouri on Dec. 8, though recreational marijuana sales are not expected to be legal until at least February, when state regulations are expected to be finalized.
More:Does Kentucky really grow more marijuana than any other state?
Though Virginia legalized possession of recreational marijuana in 2021, dispensaries where one could purchase such marijuana are not expected to be legal and operating until 2024.
People under 21 years of age are prohibited from purchasing recreational marijuana in Illinois, which will be the same age limit in Missouri and Virginia.
As for other states near Kentucky, the closest one where Kentuckians will be able to purchase legal recreational marijuana at the beginning of 2023 will be Michigan, which legalized sales in 2019.
Maryland’s new law legalizing recreational marijuana purchases will go into effect July 1.
As for Illinois recreational marijuana dispensaries, the nearest to Louisville is three hours away in Harrisburg, while several are an hour north of Paducah.
Dispensaries in southwest Michigan are a roughly four-hour drive from Louisville, while dispensaries in southeast Michigan are a roughly 3.5-hour drive from Covington.
While Illinois is closer than Michigan for much of Kentucky, marijuana from Michigan dispensaries is known to be considerably less expensive, as Illinois has a higher tax rate on the products.
It is still unclear where the nearest recreational marijuana dispensary will be in bordering Missouri when those become legal at some point after February, but it is less than an hour drive from Paducah to the easternmost part of that state.
Recreational marijuana dispensaries cannot legally operate in Maryland until at least July 1, 2023, but it is a roughly four-hour drive from Ashland to the western edge of that state.
The manner in which Beshear’s order partially legalized possession and use of medical marijuana is through his pardon power in Section 77 of the Kentucky Constitution, and he states in his order that he is issuing a preemptive pardon for any qualified individual who is accused of marijuana possession under KRS 218A.1422, a Class B misdemeanor.
But what happens if a state or local law enforcement officer pulls over an eligible person in Kentucky while they are driving back home, searches their car and finds the legally purchased marijuana? Or if police search such a person’s home and finds their legally purchased marijuana?
Asked these questions, Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley indicated the administration is currently working on language for “palm cards” for law enforcement officers, so they “can quickly determine when the necessary conditions are met and should let an individual go.”
In situations where such eligible individuals are arrested and charged with a crime, Staley said that “the pardon is issued automatically.”
More:3 takeaways from a new report by Gov. Andy Beshear’s medical marijuana committee
But what happens if an eligible Kentuckian legally purchases marijuana in another state and it is found by law enforcement in another state when they are traveling back home.
First of all, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits any passengers from carrying any kind of marijuana aboard an aircraft.
But let’s say an eligible person drives from Kentucky to Michigan to legally purchase marijuana, but is then stopped and searched by law enforcement while driving through Indiana, where all forms of marijuana are illegal?
Staley indicated that while Beshear could pardon eligible people for simple possession within Kentucky, “The Governor does not have the power to pardon violations in other states.”
She also indicated that the administration is in discussions with border states regarding reciprocity.
Reach reporter Joe Sonka at jsonka@courierjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka


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