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The 'time has come' for medical marijuana in Kentucky, the governor says

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Timothy D. Easley/AP
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FR43398 AP
FILE - Then-Attorney General Andy Beshear, left, speaks to supporters in Louisville, Ky., May 21, 2019. At right is his father and former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. In the desperate hours after the massive storm struck his state, Gov. Andy Beshear took time from his duties to do what many of his fellow Kentuckians were doing — making calls to track down a relative. The Democratic governor said Monday, Dec. 13, 2021 there was a “good ending,” as he was able to track down his cousin Jenny in hard-hit Dawson Springs after eight hours of trying. Beshear’s father is former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, who grew up in the western Kentucky town. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Gov. Andy Beshear is pressing ahead with a promise to explore whether he can legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky through executive action, a process that will take months and is likely to stir up backlash from Senate Republicans.

With polls showing robust popular support and neighboring states taking action on the issue, Beshear says the time has come for medical cannabis in Kentucky — and if the legislature won't act, he will.

"We're behind Mississippi," the governor said, incredulously. "It's time to certainly move the conversation forward... In the end I just want to make sure our veterans, some of our seniors that have the need, children with seizures, get the help that they need."

But don't expect any changes overnight.

Under Beshear's four-step plan, his office would convene a medical cannabis advisory team, gather public input from across the state, and develop a menu of possible executive actions over the coming months.

Beshear said he's taking the more deliberate approach because he wants to create a framework that is effective and incorporates as much feedback as possible, though it's unclear how much input he'll invite from skeptical lawmakers.

Asked to cite another state where a governor has used executive action to legalize medical cannabis, Beshear did not produce any names — but he noted that Kentucky doesn't allow for the kind of ballot initiatives that other states have used to legalize medical marijuana.

Medical cannabis bills have passed the GOP-controlled House only to die in the Senate, where the issue was unable to muster enough momentum for a committee hearing this year.