Who qualifies for a medical marijuana card under Kentucky’s new law? What we know so far

By 2025, Kentucky’s new medical marijuana law will take effect, granting individuals with qualifying health conditions legal access to noncombustible cannabis products — and they won’t have to travel across state lines to purchase them.

However, Senate Bill 47’s chief advocate, Louisville Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, insists the law won’t put the state on a pathway to recreational legalization.

“This is not a ‘wink, wink, nod, nod,’ medical program,” Nemes said at a committee meeting for the bill, the Herald-Leader previously reported.

The new law follows an executive order issued by Gov. Andy Beshear that allows Kentuckians to legally use medical marijuana purchased in other states. Beshear previously announced he would withdraw his order once the GOP-dominated Kentucky legislature passed its own medical cannabis law, chiding the body for its “failure to act.”

Here’s a dive into Kentucky’s new medical marijuana law, including its many caveats around who gets to be a cardholder and how they apply.

When will Kentucky launch its new medical marijuana program?

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has its work cut out for it.

Under Senate Bill 47, the cabinet has been tasked with building a medical cannabis program that would oversee the cardholders who use it, the health care workers who treat them and the dispensaries that provide it, along with other stakeholders. That includes creating an electronic monitoring system to facilitate “the tracking of medicinal cannabis from the point of cultivation to the point of sale to cardholders.”

The cabinet — in partnership with the state Board of Medical Licensure, the Kentucky Board of Nursing, the Kentucky Center for Cannabis and a new advisory board — must do all this no later than July 1, 2024.

That’s in anticipation of the law becoming effective Jan. 1, 2025.

Who qualifies to be a medical marijuana cardholder under the Kentucky law?

According to the legislation, a person will be eligible to apply for a medical cannabis card if they meet the following requirements:

  1. A resident of Kentucky

  2. Obtain a written certification from a qualifying health care provider, meaning a doctor or advanced practice registered nurse authorized to prescribe controlled substances and appropriately licensed by a state board

  3. Not convicted of a disqualifying felony offense

Children under the age of 18 years old may also use medical marijuana if they qualify and are registered with the state. However, they will not be permitted to purchase, possess or acquire medicinal cannabis.

Minors may only use medicinal cannabis with the help of their designated caregiver, such as a parent or legal guardian, who also registers with the state and provides consent for medical treatment.

To be considered “qualified” to use medical marijuana, an individual must have one of the following health conditions:

  • Any type or form of cancer, regardless of stage

  • Chronic, severe, intractable or debilitating pain

  • Epilepsy or any other intractable seizure disorder

  • Multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms or spasticity

  • Chronic nausea or cyclical vomiting syndrome resistant to other conventional treatment methods

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Notably, the law extends medical marijuana use to people with chronic nausea or vomiting syndromes resistant to the usual treatments, unlike the governor’s executive order.

Otherwise, the individual in question must have any other medical condition or disease the Kentucky Center for Cannabis determines would gain a medical, therapeutic or palliative benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

Where is weed legal? How Kentucky compares to 37 states that allow medical marijuana

How do you obtain a medical marijuana card in Kentucky if you qualify?

Applicants have to submit several pieces of information to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to be considered eligible for a medical cannabis card in Kentucky.

These include:

  • The name, address and date of birth of the qualified patient. If the applicant is houseless, they must provide an address where the applicant may be reached.

  • A written certification issued by a medicinal cannabis practitioner within 90 days immediately preceding the date of an application.

  • The name, address and telephone number of the qualified patient’s doctor or APRN, referred to as a “medicinal cannabis practitioner.”

  • The name, address and date of birth of no more than two individuals chosen by the qualified patient to be designated as a caregiver, if the patient chooses to use one.

  • A statement, signed by the qualified patient, pledging not to divert medicinal cannabis to anyone who is not permitted to possess it. This statement will include a list of potential penalties, including criminal prosecution, for illegally distributing medical cannabis. The patient’s caregivers must sign similar forms.

  • An application or renewal fee for a registry identification card for a qualified patient. This includes an additional fee for cards granted to caregivers.

How much medical cannabis can a cardholder possess?

That remains to be decided. The cabinet will determine what constitutes a 30-day supply of medical cannabis, in consultation with doctors and other health care practitioners.

Who can use medical marijuana in Kentucky? Here’s what to know about the requirements

What are the rules around possessing and using medical marijuana?

There are several rules, chief of which is smoking marijuana isn’t allowed under the state’s medical cannabis law.

Cardholders must keep their medical marijuana in the original container it was provided in. They must carry their valid medical cannabis card with them along with documents attesting to their qualifying diagnosis.

In the meantime, Kentuckians can continue to access medical marijuana through Beshear’s standing executive order. A spokesperson for the governor said the order will remain until it is no longer needed, when the new law goes into effect in 2025.

Do you have a question about marijuana in Kentucky for our service journalism team? We’d like to hear from you. Fill out our Know Your Kentucky form or email ask@herald-leader.com.

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