Kentucky Senate Proposes Holding Back Medical Cannabis Funds Pending Research

Kentucky Senate Proposes Holding Back Medical Cannabis Funds Pending Research

Medical Cannabis funding hinges on conclusive 'evidence', senate proposal says.

The Kentucky Senate has proposed keeping new funding out of the hands of state medical cannabis regulators until there is “conclusive evidence” as to the drug’s effectiveness. 

The Senate and the House both proposed about $15 million for state medical cannabis regulation in the next budget cycle (through fiscal year 2026) in their separate budget plans approved in recent weeks. But unlike the House budget plan, the Senate plan  – approved on a vote of 37-1 last week – would only allow medical cannabis regulators to tap into those funds if there is what the Senate calls “a propensity” of federal and other research showing medical cannabis’ effectiveness meets current criteria for medical cost reimbursement . 

The Senate budget provision says:

“Notwithstanding (current law), no funds shall become available until there is a propensity of federal and international peer reviewed, published research with conclusive evidence as to the efficacy of medical cannabis for the persistent reduction of symptoms of diseases and conditions consistent with established and required criteria for reimbursement under the federally approved list of CPT (uniform medical) codes.” 

The House budget plan, approved on a 77-19 vote in February, does not include that provision. 

The sticking point surfaced Monday during a Senate and House budget conference committee meeting on House Bill 6 – the bill that includes Kentucky’s proposed state budget for the next two years. The committee is working to reconcile both the Senate and House plans before April 15,  the absolute last day lawmakers can pass a budget this session. 

Kentucky’s new state budget year starts July. 1. Regulated medical cannabis will be legal in Kentucky starting Jan. 1, 2025 under a 2023 state law.

House Minority Caucus Chair Representative Cherlynn Stevenson (D-Lexington) is the lawmaker who questioned the Senate budget provision during Monday’s conference committee proceedings. Responding to her questions was Senate budget chair Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights), who said the provision evolved from “conversations particularly with folks in our chamber who aren’t necessarily opposed to this but just want to make sure we have research coming out that’s appropriate to fund this thing.” 

“While we’re not stripping the funding, we’re waiting on data that tells us this is effective. And so we’re just putting a quick pause on that to make sure we have the appropriate information,” McDaniel told Stevenson, who then asked if that pause could delay implementation of the program.

McDaniel said that would depend on the “propensity of evidence” that would be required under the Senate plan.

“If this functions as the proponents say there is a propensity of evidence and this really won’t be a problem,” he  said. “If there’s a lack of evidence then there could be a problem. But I’m certain that the proponents will produce the necessary evidence to make this a worthwhile investment.” 

More debate on the provision could come later as state lawmakers work to combine the Senate and House budget plans into one document in coming weeks.

As to federal research, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found “some evidence” of the medical benefit of cannabis, Politico reported in January. That agency released a lengthy review early this year that Politico reports states ““there exists some credible scientific support for the medical use of marijuana in at least one of the indications for which there is widespread current experience in the United States.”

LINK nky contacted the Kentucky Medical Cannabis Program Monday about the proposed Senate budget language. A response to questions about the budget language has not yet been received. 

The medical cannabis program’s website says regulated medical cannabis in the form of “edibles, oils, tinctures, vapes (for those over age 21), and raw plant material will be available for state cardholders with a limited number of health conditions after Jan. 1, 2025. Conditions that would qualify for a medical cannabis card under current law include any form of cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy or seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, chronic nausea and post-traumatic stress disorder.  (Raw plant material will not be allowed to be smoked.)

Arthritis, irritable bowel disease, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s Disease, HIV and other diseases and health conditions could be added to the list under legislation (Senate Bill 337) pending this session. 

Today medical cannabis is legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Illinois, Ohio and Virginia – all bordering Kentucky – are among 35 states that have legalized both medical and recreational cannabis to date.

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Region: Kentucky

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