KY Advances Medical Marijuana Bill to Disqualify Patients With Drug Felonies

    On March 12, legislation that would impose multiple barriers on medical marijuana access in Kentucky passed through the House and on to the Senate. Among other stipulations, the proposed bill would make many people convicted of drug possession ineligible for the state’s medical marijuana program.

    House Bill 829 would require prospective patients pass background checks before they can be issued a medical marijuana card. It would further require them to meet with a pharmacist before they can buy medical marijuana from a dispensary, and would allow K-12 schools to opt out of medical marijuana access policies.

    Under the proposed legislation, no one with a felony conviction that’s classified as “violent” or that involves controlled substances would be permitted to enroll. While Kentucky punishes some violations of the controlled substances act as misdemeanors, it’s a felony to possess substances including fentanyl, methamphetamine, LSD and GHB, and for drug convictions other than possession.

    “This is going to cause a lot of folks to probably avoid the program altogether.”

    Kentucky NORML Executive Director Matthew Bratcher told Filter that it’s unusual for a state to require background checks in order for someone to enroll on the medical marijuana registry.

    “This is going to cause a lot of folks to probably avoid the program altogether,” Bratcher said. “This is not a great start. It’s going to be problematic going forward.”

    Kentucky enacted its medical cannabis program in 2023. In K-12 school districts that decide to participate in the program, HB 829 would permit individual schools to opt out. The rest would be required to figure out the infrastructure necessary for all medical cannabis to be administered under staff supervision.

    “If a student is [prescribed a] controlled substance, and they have access to it, it shouldn’t be an issue. And isn’t, with any other scheduled drug,” Bratcher said. “Cannabis should be no different.”

    “There’s not much of an upside to it.”

    On March 1, a bipartisan bill was filed that would add another 15 qualifying conditions to the program, for a total of 21. Senate Bill 337 could expand access to an estimated 437,000 new patients, and is supported by Governor Andy Bashear (D).

    Beshear supported the medical marijuana legislation and has spoken favorably of adult-use legalization. But despite Republican support for certain aspects of cannabis access, the party’s supermajorities in the Kentucky House and Senate mean Bashear’s support doesn’t necessarily matter.

    In 2012, Connecticut was the first state to require dispensaries have pharmacists on staff to speak with patients about their medication, and.multiple other states have taken up similar laws since then.

    The consultations would cost $40 for the patient, and significant compliance costs to the state. Brachter said the requirement is redundant, as patient medical history including any other medications they’re currently taking would already have been established by the physician who diagnosed them with their qualifying conditions.

    “There’s not much of an upside to it.”



    Image via State of Ohio

    • Alexander is Filter’s staff writer. He writes about the movement to end the War on Drugs. He grew up in New Jersey and swears it’s actually alright. He’s also a musician hoping to change the world through the power of ledger lines and legislation. Alexander was previously Filter‘s editorial fellow.

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