(LOUISVILLE, Ky - February 26, 2020) Several steps can be taken to reduce the risks to children and other vulnerable populations that may result from legalizing medical marijuana in the Commonwealth, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky said today. While 33 states and the District of Columbia now permit marijuana for treatment of health conditions, many of these states have seen increased youth use, poisonings, emergency room visits, and driving-while-high incidents.
"Public opinion is well ahead of the science about the effectiveness and risks of legalizing medical marijuana but, if Kentucky decides to go forward, we've composed a list of policy considerations to help protect the public health," said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation. The policy considerations fall into six categories: protecting at-risk populations from marijuana-use disorders; preventing poisonings, accidents, crime and secondhand exposure; reducing youth access; ensuring quality control and appropriate dosage; enforcement and justice system considerations; and educating health care providers and the public about the risks and ongoing public health impacts of a medical marijuana law in Kentucky.
The Foundation has not taken a position on whether Kentucky should pass such a law, but a Kentucky Health Issues Poll report released by the Foundation and Interact for Health on February 5 found that 90 percent of Kentucky adults favor legalizing medical marijuana. The Foundation also dedicated its annual health policy forum last September to medical marijuana; the list of policy considerations it released today emanates primarily from presentations by state and national experts who spoke at the event.
A medical marijuana bill passed the Kentucky House on February 20 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration. It contains some but not all of the policy considerations:
  • Require patients to have a medical recommendation card obtained from a licensed physician to purchase marijuana for medical conditions;
  • Require licenses for cultivators, processors and dispensaries;
  • Establish child-proof packaging requirements and liability for negligent storage in spaces where children are present;
  • Restrict advertising and marketing that reaches and/or targets minors;
  • Prohibit kid friendly shapes, colors, product formats and packaging;
  • Prohibit public consumption and smoking of marijuana;
  • Restrict sales to face-to-face transactions in licensed, 21-and-older bricks and mortar locations and create a sufficient compliance check system;
  • Prohibit possession by any person at any time on school buses; as well as in school vehicles while minors are present;
  • Regulate pesticide use, require safe manufacturing and packaging requirements and require recalls to be publicized;
  • Establish an accredited testing lab system and ensure traceability throughout the supply chain;
  • Emphasize treatment over incarceration;
  • Set aside portion of revenues generated by medical marijuana for enforcement and education;
  • Establish reporting requirements on ongoing public health impacts.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky list, Medical Marijuana: Public Health Policy Considerations, can be found here.

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About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $29 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.
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