How will Kentucky's Medical Marijuana program be regulated

How will Kentucky's Medical Marijuana program be regulated

Kentucky Medical Cannabis Program: Regulations Unveiled Ahead of January 2025 Launch.

The Kentucky Medical Cannabis Program — which regulates the legal cultivation, production, sale and use of medical marijuana products — is set to officially start Jan. 1, 2025.

But before patients and businesses can take part, the state still needs to finalize its regulations to oversee the emerging industry in the commonwealth.

Gov. Andy Beshear signed Senate Bill 47 into law last March, legalizing the medical marijuana industry in Kentucky. The bill put the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in charge of regulations for the industry.

In early January, Beshear's administration filed its first set of 10 regulations governing the industry and providing a framework for how businesses will operate.

These regulations were filed the same day, Beshear urged the expansion of the medical cannabis program to include 15 additional qualifying conditions.

The 10 regulations focus on cultivators, processors, producers, safety compliance facilities, dispensaries and more.

They include tracking from seed to sale, establishment of product safety testing standards and a license requirement for both consumers and businesses to participate in the industry.

According to the website for the state medical cannabis program, the cabinet is in the process of developing additional regulations.

"In the coming weeks and months, the Cabinet will promulgate additional regulations on how patients and caregivers can become cardholders and how individuals and businesses can apply for a medical cannabis business license," Brice Mitchell, a cabinet spokesperson, told The Courier Journal in an email.

The simple act of filing regulations does not guarantee they will go into effect. First, there will be a public comment period. Afterward, the cabinet will review and consider the public input and potentially tweak the regulations. Then, the regulations head to the General Assembly for approval.

A public comment hearing on the regulations will be held March 25 at 9 a.m. via Zoom. To attend, interested parties must notify the cabinet in writing by March 18 at [email protected].

Here's a look at three key points in the 10 medical marijuana regulations filed by the Beshear administration:

Medical marijuana must be grown indoors

Despite Kentucky's natural agricultural advantages that help the region produce high quality bourbon, racehorses and hemp, the regulations say all medical cannabis must be planted, grown, cultivated and harvested "in an enclosed, locked facility," including a room, greenhouse, building or other indoor enclosed area.

Currently, the state allows for hemp, a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC content, to be grown outside.

Strict packaging and labeling requirements for products

Following in Beshear's footsteps when he filed an executive order in 2022 to regulate the packaging of delta-8, a hemp derived marijuana alternative, the cabinet has placed an emphasis on controlling packaging standards in an effort to protect the public from accidental consumption of medical marijuana and to ensure there is no confusion about what is in a product.

"The packaging and labeling regulation provides a consistent standard for how packaging and labeling medicinal cannabis products will occur and how information required under state law ... will be displayed on product labeling to protect and inform Kentucky consumers," Mitchell said.

The packaging and labeling regulations require medical cannabis products to not resemble commercially available major-brand, edible non-cannabis products, such as popular candies or snack foods. The package must clearly state the item inside contains medical cannabis.

The state government also wants no representation that could mislead consumers to believe the medical marijuana product has been endorsed by the state or any packaging that would be attractive to minors.

Packages must also be child resistant, have a two-step opening process and be labeled with product warnings, THC content, CBD content and more.

Dispensaries are final line of consumer safety defense

By the time products have reached a dispensary, they will have been vetted for a variety of safety factors in multiple steps along the way before ever reaching the customer.

But it's up to the dispensary and its employees to ensure consumers buy what they legally can and what they intend to buy. For example, "vaporizing" methods of medical marijuana can't be sold to those under the age of 21. Also, no medical cannabis products can be sold directly to a minor. One caveat is that a patient's caregiver, such as a parent, can be legally authorized to buy medical marijuana for a minor to use.

Dispensaries will be allowed to sell raw flower, a part of the cannabis plant often used for smoking, but not "any medicinal cannabis accessory that is used solely for the purpose of smoking medicinal cannabis, including rolling papers and lighters."

Mitchell said the sale of raw flower is aimed at allowing patients the ability to make "homemade edibles/baked goods and teas."

Industry experts like Dee Dee Taylor, the owner of 502 Hemp Wellness Center, 812 Hemp and a member of Beshear's medical cannabis advisory committee, finds it "comical" and "naive" to not allow smoking for patients, noting many patients would likely still use flower to smoke.

Others like Jim Higdon, the co-founder of Cornbread Hemp, which sees the medical cannabis industry as a "natural progression" of his business, said the no-smoking provision in the state program is "unique in the nation."

The dispensary regulations also require that a dispensary cannot be located in a shared space with a medical cannabis practitioner. Medical marijuana can be sold only within a licensed, enclosed building or secure structure.

Dispensaries will be allowed to operate only within the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Region: Kentucky

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