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Ky. committee finds strong support for medical cannabis

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear at the podium during a COVID-19 memorial service at the State Capitol in Frankfort on Nov. 14, 2021.
A committee established by Gov. Andy Beshear in June to gauge public interest on medical cannabis found strong support from residents.

Recent findings from a committee established to gauge public opinion on medical cannabis in Kentucky found many residents support its use.

Gov. Andy Beshear formed the Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee in June, after state lawmakers failed to pass legislation to legalize medical cannabis. House Bill 136 passed the Kentucky House during the legislative session but was not taken up by the Senate.

Through town halls, polling and more than 3,500 comments to a state website, the committee learned that many residents believe cannabis can help with chronic conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder. They also support its use as an alternative to addictive pain medications like opioids.

“Polling suggests 90% of Kentucky adults support legalizing medical cannabis,” Beshear said in a news release. “Our team traveled the state to talk directly to Kentuckians, and they found our people do indeed overwhelmingly support it.”

The 17-member committee includes health care professionals, addiction treatment specialists and law enforcement. That includes Kerry Harvey, committee co-chair and secretary of the state’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

“Everyone who spoke supported legalizing medical cannabis in Kentucky,” he said in the release. “We heard from many Kentuckians that use cannabis for its beneficial medical effects but can only do so by breaking the law as it now exists.”

Committee member Andrew Sparks, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said in a statement that law enforcement is focused on drugs like fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin — not cannabis.

“These are the drugs that are destroying our communities and killing our children,” he said. “This is where the law enforcement focus needs to be.”

Beshear has said for several months he was considering legalizing cannabis through executive action if lawmakers didn’t pass legislation to do so.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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