Republican lawmakers in Kentucky want Gov. Andy Beshear to pump the brakes on recent suggestions that he could legalize medical cannabis via executive action.
A legislative push to authorize the treatment in the Bluegrass State has dried up in recent weeks, prompting the first term Democrat to say that he plans to explore what steps he could take to get the measure over the finish line.
But members of Kentucky’s GOP-dominated legislature are saying: “Not so fast!”
In a sternly worded statement last week, Kentucky state Senate President Robert Stivers admonished Beshear, saying that such action would be unconstitutional.
“The public should be concerned with a governor who thinks he can change statute by executive order,” Stivers said. “He simply can’t legalize medical marijuana by executive order; you can’t supersede a statute by executive order because it’s a Constitutional separation of powers violation.”
Other lawmakers accused the Democratic governor of “giving Kentuckians false hope,” according to local television station WDRB.
“I thought something was coming, to the extent that it’s an effort to bring more information to the subject, to use the Governor’s bully pulpit to push the issue forward, I’m fully supportive,” said GOP state House Rep. Jason Nemes, as quoted by WDRB. “I appreciate the Governor’s sentiment on this, I agree with him 100%.”
“I want to have words of caution there. I have had a lot of advocates contact me and ask me if this is possible, can this happen. They are hopeful. They just want to be and feel better,” Nemes continued. “The answer is ‘no’ the Governor does not have the authority to legalize medicinal cannabis in Kentucky. I wish he did. If he did, I would be heralding it from the rooftops because this is something I believe Kentuckians need.”
Nemes was the sponsor of a medical cannabis bill that passed the Kentucky state House in March.
“I’ll never forget this mother leaning forward and touching my hand. She told me what it meant to her child, and they all went around the room and said what it meant to them,” Nemes said while promoting the bill during the legislative session. “And I thought, here’s good people, real good people, and I disagree with them. So, I was starting to question it. I talked to physicians, did a lot of research on the issue.”
But the bill’s prospects have never been exactly bright, with Stivers saying it lacked support in his chamber.
With the bill appearing dead in the water, Beshear was asked by reporters earlier this month if he may be able to get something done through executive actions.
“We’re going to explore that,” Beshear said at the time. “It’s something that we will look at. Its time has certainly come.”
Last week, Beshear ramped up those threats.
“If they are not going to take action—not even give it a committee hearing in the Senate—then I believe it’s my obligation to see what’s possible given the will of the people and their desire to move forward on this,” he said. “It’s time to certainly move the conversation forward.”
Nemes, however, has preached patience in the effort to legalize medical cannabis there.
“This is not something that is going to happen in the next week or month,” Nemes said, as quoted by WDRB. “This has to be a statutory change, and the only way to change a statue is unfortunately through the legislature.”
“It feels like momentum is strongly on our side, that’s because the people of Kentucky have decided, they have looked at this issue and they are for it,” Nemes added, according to the station.