Connect with us


Kentucky House Votes To Bar People With Some Drug Convictions From Enrolling In Medical Marijuana Program



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

By Alexander Lekhtman, Filter

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.

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.”

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 Gov. Andy Beshear (D).

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

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 Beshear’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.”

This article was originally published by Filter, an online magazine covering drug use, drug policy and human rights through a harm reduction lens. Follow Filter on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up for its newsletter.

Congressional Committee Will Take Up Medical Marijuana And Psychedelics Bills For Veterans At Hearing Next Week

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Get our daily newsletter.

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Get our daily newsletter.