By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
The newly appointed 17-member Team Kentucky Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee met for the first time Monday in Frankfort, where it reviewed Gov. Andy Beshear’s expectations and set dates and locations for the first two of four planned town-hall forums.
The first is scheduled July 6 at the University of Pikeville‘s Health Professions Education Building; the second is scheduled July 19 at the Transportation Cabinet in Frankfort. The town halls are expected to last 90 minutes and two others will be held in Western Kentucky and Northern Kentucky.
In forming this committee, Beshear has said that he is looking for ways to bring medical marijuana to Kentucky by executive action. Legislators have said he lacks the power to do that, but Co-Chairman Kerry Harvey, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, told reporters, “It’s time to advance this debate; 37 or 38 other states have acted on this.”
In the meeting, Harvey stressed that everyone is encouraged to express their opinion on this issue, whether via a town-hall meeting or online, regardless of whether that opinion is for medical cannabis or against it. “We’re going to do our best to provide an uncluttered, clear line of communication between all of you all who have a great deal of experience and expertise, as well as all the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky who are interested in this issue,” he said, adding later, “We will make sure your voice is heard.”
Harvey, a former United States attorney, also talked about what the advisory committee is not.
“This is not about recreational” marijuana, he said. “This will not be a debate or a discussion of recreational. What this is about, is exploring whether there is a safe and effective way that we’re not now employing to alleviate the suffering of a lot of our fellow citizens.”
Beshear is running for re-election in 2023, but Harvey said, “This is not a partisan political issue. If we look at the public polling in Kentucky, medical cannabis enjoys widespread support of Kentuckians, whether Republicans, Democrats or independents.”
The committee’s website, medicalcannabis.ky.gov, was launched on Friday and has already received 738 comments about medical cannabis in Kentucky, with only 10 of them opposed to it, said Co-Chairman Ray Perry, secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet.