While the pace at which states approve medical cannabis has slowed considerably in recent years, it hasn’t stopped completely. Kentucky is evidence of that. The Bluegrass State recently became the 38th state to approve medical cannabis for certain conditions. Now it is up to regulators to fine-tune the law passed by state legislators.
Legal medical cannabis has been a long time coming to Kentucky. It is a state largely controlled by conservative Republicans who, until about a year ago, were very much in favor of keeping cannabis on the illegal substances list. But viewpoints have changed. So much so that qualifying patients will be able to begin purchasing medical cannabis in 2025.
Slow but Steady Progress
Medical cannabis advocates have been making slow but steady progress since the 1990s. A movement that was largely birthed on America’s West Coast has swept eastward, overtaking liberal and conservative states alike. The movement has been so effective that states no one ever expected to fall have done so. Consider Utah.
Utah is one of the most conservative states in the union. For many years, it was believed the Beehive State would never give the green light to medical cannabis. But Deseret Wellness, a medical cannabis pharmacy located in Park City, tell us that’s exactly what voters did back in 2019. They approved a proposition that forced the state to establish a legal medical cannabis program.
What happened in Utah also occurred in Kentucky. It just took a little longer. But now that Kentucky is on board, they join the ranks of states willing to recognize that cannabis probably does have some legitimate medical uses despite being classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.
We Are Down to 12
Kentucky becoming the 38th state with legal medical cannabis means we are now down to just 12 states where prohibition remains. How long before they get on board? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. It could take 5 years; it could take 10 years or more. The wild card here is Washington.
There have been serious efforts to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level for the last few years. Both Democrat- and Republican-led Houses have passed one bill after another. Unfortunately for medical cannabis advocates, all those bills have died in the Senate. Senate conservatives have been unwilling to vote yes for a variety of reasons.
It was assumed the Senate would push a bill through within weeks of Joe Biden becoming president. During Biden’s first two years, Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress. Yet there were never enough votes on the Senate side. On some of the Senate bills, even a few Democrats voted no.
Where Do We Go From Here
Getting back to Kentucky, their law is similar to Utah’s in the sense that no provision has been made for recreational marijuana. It is the same in more than a dozen of the states with medical cannabis programs. That said, where do we go from here?
One state after another – from California to Washington to Oregon – opened the door to recreational marijuana with a medical program, only to use that open door to legalize recreational consumption. No doubt lawmakers in some of the more conservative states don’t want recreational marijuana to become reality. They establish medical programs because voter propositions force them to. Meanwhile, they hope and pray a recreational marijuana proposition does not pass.
At any rate, we can now put Kentucky into the medical cannabis column. They have joined 37 other states and the District of Columbia.