Kentucky to open applications for the state's medical marijuana business

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Businesses that want to sell, process or grow medical marijuana for Kentucky can start applying for permits starting Monday, part of an accelerated push to have products available in early 2025, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

Doctors and advanced practice registered nurses also can begin submitting applications to let them certify eligible patients to buy the drug. The state’s Board of Medical Licensure and Board of Nursing will oversee the process.

The Bluegrass State's medical cannabis program begins Jan. 1. Kentucky's Republican-dominated Legislature passed the law with bipartisan support in 2023, legalizing medical cannabis for people suffering from a list of debilitating illnesses. Beshear, a Democrat, quickly signed the measure into law and his administration has been working on program regulations since then.

The governor signed follow-up legislation this past spring moving up the timeline for cannabis business licensing by six months.

The state has already broadcast a series of YouTube webinars, issued a business licensing application guide and other materials to assist applicants. Businesses can apply for licenses through the end of August. The goal is to have some medical cannabis available in January when the products become legal, Beshear has said.

Patients can apply for medical cannabis cards starting Jan. 1 if they have qualifying illnesses, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy, chronic nausea or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state is committed to ensuring Kentuckians with qualifying medical conditions have "safe, affordable access to medical cannabis,” state Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander said Thursday.

In April, Beshear said the state will use a lottery system to award its first round of business licenses.

“The program is focused on ensuring cannabis business licensing is fair, transparent and customer-service oriented,” said Sam Flynn, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Medical Cannabis.

The state initially will issue 48 dispensary licenses divided among 11 regions. Each region will get at least four, with most counties limited to one each. The counties home to Louisville and Lexington are the exceptions, and will each be allowed two licenses, Beshear's administration has said. The first license lottery will be in October.

A limited number of licenses to grow and process cannabis also will be issued.

License caps are meant to avoid flooding the market, which would hurt both businesses and patients, the governor has said. The program can be expanded depending on demand and whether more qualifying medical conditions are added.

“You can always scale up," Beshear said in April. "Scaling back hurts businesses, hurts people and hurts access.”