City officials discussing future of medicinal cannabis in Owensboro

June 19, 2024 | 12:15 am

Updated June 19, 2024 | 6:25 am

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City officials have begun discussions on the future of medicinal cannabis in Owensboro. With the option to regulate dispensaries or prohibit them, City Commissioners indicated they are leaning toward the former option.

According to City Attorney Mark Pfeifer, the City has until December 31 to enact an ordinance prohibiting or restricting medicinal cannabis within city limits. This comes after the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 829, which amended the American Medical Marijuana statute to allow dispensaries to open and sell medicinal cannabis starting January 1, 2025.

Under the current law, only four dispensaries would be allowed to operate throughout an entire economic development district, and only one could operate out of any given county. Owensboro is part of the 7-county Green River District. Per statute, dispensaries are also restricted from opening within 1,000 feet of an elementary or middle school or daycare center.

Even if Daviess Fiscal Court were to adopt an ordinance prohibiting a dispensary in the county, the City of Owensboro could adopt its own policy to allow one to operate within city limits, according to Pfeifer.

Pfiefer also gave a brief overview of who could purchase medical cannabis. He said they must have a written certificate and be recommended by their medical professional or diagnosed with one of the following medical conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic Severe Intractable or debilitating pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Chronic Nausea or Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, if it’s resistant to other treatment
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Pfiefer said it is important to note that medicinal cannabis can not be smoked nor consumed in public places. DUI laws would still apply if someone was pulled over and under the influence of the product. Owensboro Police Chief Art Ealum said they are still learning how to detect the active nanograms in someone’s system properly.

Members of the City Commission present at Tuesday’s meeting said allowing a local dispensary could be a positive for the City.

Mayor Tom Watson said he has seen benefits in his orthopedic recovery practice and thinks it’s worth it as an option.

“I like to call it medicinal like the state instead of medical because it has a connotation of being medicinal there. But there are definite medicinal uses for it,” Watson said. “I think it’s worth giving a try to those people who have tried everything else, and it fails.”

City Commissioner Bob Glenn said he is “certainly willing to approve” the ordinance with the current limitations. He cited his exposure through his daughter, an oncology doctor in Cleveland.

“I would be supportive. I don’t see any reason not to. It’s been a long, hard slog, and we’re behind other states. Now, does that mean we jump to recreational use? That’ll be up to the state, but I think this is a good first step, and it definitely can help with PTSD, seizures, cancer, pain treatment, and all of that if it’s done responsibly,” Glenn said.

City Commissioner Sharon NeSmith said that while she has no close experience with medical cannabis, she has read and seen stories about how it has benefited children and families. However, she said there may be natural pushback should it get passed.

“I’ve been fully supportive. I’m a child of the ’60s. So, I understand the initial reactions, and probably people just really haven’t thought about it. There will be enough regulations and oversight, and I think it would help more people than it would harm,” NeSmith said.

Commissioner Mark Castlen said he is open to passing an ordinance but would first like to see other cities’ ordinances.

“I think we ought to review a little deeper to see what other cities are doing and weigh things out, but marijuana has been used for centuries. It’s like any other drug; it can be abused. But, if you use it the way a doctor prescribes it, it will benefit many people,” Castlen said.

Commissioner Pam Smith-Wright did not attend the June 18 Commission meeting.

June 19, 2024 | 12:15 am

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