Kentucky Permits Medical Marijuana

​Kentucky Gov. Andy Bashear, D, recently signed a law to legalize medical marijuana for adults in the state. The legalization trend has important implications for employers in their legal compliance, applicant screenings and drug testing policies.

We’ve gathered a group of articles on the subject from SHRM Online and other trusted sources.

Six Medical Conditions

The Kentucky law allows patients with cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, nausea and post-traumatic stress disorder to obtain a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis medicinally. The bill does not allow patients to smoke marijuana, although it does allow for the sale of unprocessed cannabis flower for vaping. Marijuana edibles, tinctures and topical products are authorized by the bill. Patients can possess a 10-day supply of cannabis on their person and a 30-day supply at home. Kentucky’s medical cannabis program is slated to launch by January 2025.


Supporters and Opponents

Supporters praised Kentucky’s law as a way to help ill people alleviate pain without using opioids and without risking criminal prosecution for possessing and using marijuana. Opponents argued there have not been enough studies proving the efficacy and safety of using marijuana as a medical treatment. Several Republican lawmakers expressed concerns this bill would expose children to marijuana and set Kentucky down a path toward recreational legalization. Republican State Sen. Gary Boswell, R, opposed the bill, saying the qualifying medical categories listed in the measure were too broad.

(Lexington Herald Leader, Associated Press and the Courier-Journal)

Business Regulation

Kentucky’s law establishes a structure to regulate the medical cannabis program, including dispensaries, cultivators, practitioners, processors and products, and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. The bill establishes the authorization process for practitioners to recommend the use of medicinal cannabis and establishes the cannabis business license application process and requirements.

(14 News)

Rising Trend in States

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Counting Kentucky, medical marijuana is now legal in 38 states, plus Washington, D.C., Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Twenty-one states allow recreational marijuana, along with Washington, D.C., and Guam. In 2022, Maryland, Missouri and Rhode Island legalized adult recreational marijuana use, while voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota rejected it.

(SHRM Online and SHRM Online)

Off-Duty Use

Some states, including California, prohibit employers from basing an adverse employment action on an individual’s lawful, off-duty use of recreational marijuana, unless the employee came to work impaired. Drug testing is allowed to detect current impairment while on the job; however, it may be difficult for employers to determine whether someone is impaired and when the substance might have been consumed.

(SHRM Online and SHRM Online)

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