Gov. Beshear signs medical marijuana and sports betting bills into law

Gov. Beshear signs medical marijuana and sports betting bills into law
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 8:54 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 6:26 PM CDT
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KENTUCKY (WFIE) - Governor Andy Beshear has signed Senate Bill 47, which legalizes the use of medical cannabis in Kentucky, and House Bill 551, which legalizes sports betting.

“Tears were just flowing I didn’t know if this day would ever come,” Deborah DeSpain said. “I’m 65 years old, I’m fighting stage four thyroid cancer.”

DeSpain has been waiting for this day for quite some time as a medical cannabis advocate.

“I’m going to be able to live a healthy life due to this diagnosis of thyroid cancer regardless,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain is not just an advocate, she uses it to help manage pain from her thyroid cancer.

“I didn’t have any thoughts of being able to live through this because I can’t take enough thyroid medicine to kill the cancer.”

She says her endocrinologist sees her as a medical feat.

“And he says Debbie, you’re a miracle, you’re a walking miracle,” DeSpain said.

The new law will take effect beginning in 2025. It will allow people with recommendations from doctors to use medical cannabis.

Officials say the bill establishes a structure to regulate the medical cannabis program, including dispensaries, cultivators, practitioners, processors and products and issuing identification cards to patients and caregivers. The bill establishes the authorization process for practitioners to recommend the use of medicinal cannabis and establishes the cannabis business license application process and requirements.

Adjustments are expected to be made in the next session, officials say.

Smoking it will not be allowed, but raw cannabis will be allowed for vaporization.

“I knew it made me feel better, I knew I was a better person, but I never expected it to be legal,” DeSpain said.

DeSpain says that the drug has carried a stigma for decades, something that still continues to the present day.

“It was ingrained into so many of us for so many years that it was such a bad and negative thing,” DeSpain said.

Until 2025, Debbie will have to rely on the executive order that took effect at the beginning of the new year. She still will have to travel to Illinois to buy it.

“So you don’t know if you’ll ever get pulled over, and if you do, what does that mean? Now that we have the executive order, I feel better about that,” DeSpain said.

But once it’s 2025, Debbie hopes Henderson will jump on board to house a dispensary locally.

“Nurse Deb would have to be in the middle of it,” DeSpain said. “Absolutely.”

According to a release, the bill is a part of Beshear’s effort to reduce Kentuckians’ reliance on addictive opioids and to provide relief from severe and chronic pain.

“In November, I signed an executive order to help Kentuckians with certain medical conditions, like our veterans suffering from PTSD, find safe and effective relief through medical cannabis,” Gov. Beshear said. “Now, I am finally able to sign this legislation into law and fully legalize medical cannabis – something the majority of Kentuckians support.”

The sports betting bill will allow Kentuckians to bet on college and pro sports using a computer, phone, or mobile device, or by going to a horse track-owned facility in Kentucky.

“Now, after years of urging action, sports betting is legal in Kentucky. We finally did it! Today’s result shows that hard work pays off,” Gov. Beshear said. “Kentuckians will soon be able to place their bets here, and for the first time, we are going to keep those dollars here to support our economy and communities.”

Kentucky is the 38th state to legalize sports betting. The law will go into effect in late June.

According to a release, sports betting will generate an estimated revenue increase of $23 million a year upon full implementation that will be dedicated to the Kentucky permanent pension fund and 2.5% to the problem gambling assistance account. The bill will also establish new excise taxes on sports wagering: 9.75% on the adjusted gross revenues on wagers made at a licensed facility and 14.25% on wagers placed online or on a smartphone.

[Previous: General Assembly sends medical marijuana bill to Beshear’s desk]

[Bill legalizing sports betting headed to Beshear’s desk]

You can watch the signing below.