By BRUCE SCHREINER – Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Governor Andy Beshear paved the way Tuesday for the opening of a cannabis research center as he considers whether he has the executive power to single-handedly legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky.
The governor revealed his action on a bill authorizing the University of Kentucky research center. The measure won lawmakers’ overwhelming approval on the last day of this year’s legislative session earlier this month.
In his review, the governor retained the language creating the center. He said he used his veto power to broaden the center’s work and allow more leeway in selecting an oversight board.
The Democratic governor’s vetoes will stand since the Republican-dominated legislature will not meet until January 2023 for its next regular session.
In the final weeks of this year’s session, key lawmakers resisting the legalization of medical cannabis lobbied for the research center as an alternative. This would allow more time to study the effectiveness of marijuana in treating certain conditions, they said.
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A separate bill to legalize medical marijuana passed the State House but died in the Senate this year. The legalization bill would have strictly regulated the use of cannabis for a list of qualifying medical conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy and chronic nausea. Republicans have supermajorities in both houses.
Frustrated by the Senate’s inaction, Beshear recently asked his legal team to examine potential options to legalize medical marijuana through executive action and create a regulatory framework to make it accessible for certain medical conditions. Beshear is also setting up a Medical Cannabis Advisory Team to gather feedback from the public. He said last week that the review would span the next two months. He says the legalization of medical marijuana has strong support from Kentuckians.
The governor’s veto message on Tuesday made no reference to his review of potential executive branch actions.
The bill gives the President of the United Kingdom the power to appoint members of an advisory board overseeing the work and finances of the research centre. In his vetoes, the governor removed language that lists UK civil servants to be considered for board membership, as well as medical specialists. Beshear said he also removed provisions he said restricted the center’s work and its access to state funding.
“I veto these parties because they limit the purpose of the center and dictate who the president of the University of Kentucky should consider appointing to the advisory board after giving the president of the university the power of appointment unique,” Beshear said in his veto message.
“I also veto these parts as ongoing credits may be required,” he added.
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