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FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) – Medical marijuana patients have more legal protections in Kentucky after an executive order by Gov. Andy Beshear took effect this weekend.

There are a lot of misconceptions that Beshear’s order legalized medical marijuana when it just gives narrow protections.

“There are some things that need to be clarified,” Lauren Bratcher told FOX 56. Bratcher is deputy director for Kentucky’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML.

Kentuckians diagnosed with any of 21 specific, serious medical conditions can now legally possess medical marijuana in Kentucky, but the catch is they still can’t get it here.

“He has gone ahead and basically issued a pre-pardon to anyone who meets the requirements stated in that order,” Bratcher said.

The conditions that qualify under the order are:

  • Cancer
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or “Lou Gehrig’s disease”
  • Epilepsy
  • Intractable seizures
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Severe and chronic pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Neuropathies
  • Severe arthritis
  • Hepatitis C.
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Intractable pain
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • Glaucoma
  • A terminal illness

Beshear’s order does set the stage for what could be an intense political push for the Kentucky legislature to finish what he started.

“I think that the chances of medical marijuana in Kentucky passing is better than ever. The Republican legislature has been put in a box here,” FOX 56 political analyst Jonathan Miller said. “If they don’t do anything on medical marijuana, they’re handing him a very popular political issue to campaign on this year.”

As the General Assembly gavels in the 2023 session on Tuesday, several pro-marijuana policy groups are planning a rally, alongside a group of lawmakers who will file bills to both decriminalize the drug and create a medical marijuana program.

Bratcher said the two issues go hand in hand.

“You can’t have somebody using it for medicine while somebody else’s life is falling apart because they went to jail for it. We need to make that even,” she said.

So far only Kentucky’s House of Representatives has passed a medical marijuana bill. The issue has never gotten a vote on the Senate floor and has died in committee.


Bratcher and other activists will be holding a decriminalization rally at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Capitol rotunda. The 2023 session gavels in at noon.