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Kentucky Medical Marijuana Measure Advances in the House

by Sarah Cawthon February 19, 2020

A measure that would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky overwhelmingly cleared the House Judiciary Committee in a 17-1 vote on February 12, furthering a proposal that has struggled to gain traction in the legislature despite increasing public support.

House Bill 136, if passed, would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to more than 60,000 Kentuckians living with a severe medical condition from the limited list of qualifying conditions, including, among others, AIDS, seizure disorders and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, it would create an oversight system to regulate and tax commercial sales.

In 2019, HB 136 failed to pass through the House before Kentucky’s General Assembly concluded. Now, the bill will move to the full House floor for consideration with a final vote expected as early as this week. Rep. Jason Nemes, a lead supporter of the bill, expects the bill to pass in the House by a large margin — with more than 70 votes.

The bill has gained momentum in the House as medical marijuana has emerged as an alternative to addictive opioid pain pills and amid growing public support.

“So many Kentucky families have seen a loved one fall into addiction, and their lives have been devastated,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “If medical marijuana is an alternative and gives people the chance to get pain relief without being subjected to opioids, I think it’s something we’ve got to explore.”

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll recently revealed that 90 percent of Kentucky residents support the legalization of medical marijuana, and nearly 60 percent expressed that cannabis should be legal under “any circumstances” in their most recent poll. This demonstrates a significant increase in support for marijuana reform over the past several years.

The legislation will then need to pass through the Senate after receiving a full vote in the House. However, the bill’s prospects seem less certain in the Senate and supporters of the bill are now urging Kentuckians to express support to their senators.

“We won the battle in the House committee,” Nemes said. “It’s almost, pretty much over in the House of Representatives. Now we’ve got to let our senators understand where you are and educate them on the bill.”

Nemes has made changes to the bill in an effort to improve its chances of passing. One modification is the bill’s no-smoking provision, which will bar patients from smoking their medical marijuana if the legislation is signed into law. Instead, patients would need to consume their medicine through such forms as pills and oils, and flower would be sold for other uses.

The regulatory board, the Division of Medical Marijuana within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control, would consist of eight doctors, four public advocates and a pharmacist. The bill would then set up a regulatory process to allow for at least 25 dispensaries statewide to administer medical marijuana to qualifying patients.

Proposed Medical Marijuana Business Details:

The department will establish three licensure tiers for each of the licensure categories (cultivator, processor, dispensary). There will be one uniform application for all cannabis business types in which applicants will submit a nonrefundable licensure application fee of $100.

The first tier marijuana business license will be issued to persons or entities applying for an initial cannabis business license for the first time or a cannabis business that had no more than two million dollars of gross receipts during the previous calendar year. The initial license fee will be $5,000 and the renewal fee will be set at $500 plus 1% of all gross receipts during the previous calendar year.

The second tier marijuana business license will be available to a marijuana business who had between two million dollars and eight million dollars of gross receipts during the previous calendar year. The renewal license fee will be $2,000 plus 1.5% of all gross receipts during the previous calendar year.

The third tier marijuana business license will be issued to marijuana business who had over eight million dollars of gross receipts during the previous calendar year. The renewal license fee will be $4,000 plus 2% of all gross receipts during the previous calendar year.

Within two years after the effective date, if a sufficient number of marijuana business license applications has been submitted to the department, the department will issue a marijuana business license to at least one marijuana business in each marijuana business category within each geographical area.

Additionally, local governments will be able to choose whether or not to prohibit medical marijuana business operations within its territory through the passage of an ordinance or by directing the question to the local voters at the next general election.

If passed, Kentucky’s medical marijuana program would start January 1, 2021.

Prepare for Kentucky Marijuana Business Opportunities

KT GuideIf you want to begin preparing for future marijuana business opportunities in Kentucky, our Kentucky Application Guide & Checklist includes a step-by-step checklist of all action items needed to complete and establish a marijuana business. The guide is specific to the legislation being considered, HB 136, so you can be ready for the state's licensing opportunities after it passes into law. 

The guide provides a step-by-step checklist of over 100 action items to complete prior to submitting your application for a marijuana business license. It covers topics from real estate and financial planning to staffing and team building activities.