Can Kentucky’s Governor Legalize Cannabis —And What About President Biden?
Partly the South, partly the Midwest, Kentucky is an increasingly unique anachronism: one of the just 14 states left in the country who won’t legalize cannabis—medical nor adult-use. This remains so despite the state House passing a bill legalizing medical cannabis for sick people earlier this year. To solve this impasse, Gov. Andy Beshear has vowed to take action into his own hands. One of only two Democrats in statewide office in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state, in April, Beshear promised to bypass the obstructionist state legislature and take executive action to legalize medical marijuana—if that’s what it takes, and if he has the constitutional authority to do so, questions he hopes to sort out as soon as this summer. Those are big ifs indeed. And they lead to another, even larger if: if Beshear decides to go ahead and legalize cannabis by fiat, and if other chief executives around the country are similarly inspired and follow suit—couldn’t President Biden do the same and simply legalize cannabis nationwide with a stroke of his pen? It’s an interesting question of both constitutional law as well as practical politics—and the answer isn’t as straightforward as some legalization advocates might like. It’s some combination of, “maybe, sort of, not really—and it’s probably not what you actually want, anyway.” State of Exception Beshear’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment and for any updates on his thinking or his timeline. But according to at least one observer—Jim Higdon, the co-founder of Cornbread Hemp, a Kentucky-based hemp company and the son of a longtime state lawmaker, who authored an opinion column in the Cincinnati Enquirer about this very subject—Beshear can absolutely tell statewide police to stand down and to compel state lawmakers to come into work, and make them look like do-nothing…
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