Kentucky Gov.’s Medical Cannabis Executive Order Creates Patchwork of Hospital Policies

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order to allow for limited medical cannabis access in the state has led to a patchwork of state hospital policies covering cannabis use by patients.

Full story after the jump.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order allowing people with a physician’s recommendation to use and possess legally purchased medical cannabis has led to a patchwork of policies by the state’s hospitals. In interviews with LEO Weekly, two hospital networks said they have developed blueprints for their providers to make recommendations for patients while two indicated they would not develop plans. 

Michael Newkirk, vice president of Baptist Health Medical Group, told LEO Weekly hat the governor’s order has “presented some interesting conundrums” for the hospital “to be able to solve” through their providers. The hospital, which owns seven hospitals in Kentucky, has created a template for a document that Newkirk said “satisfies the governor’s requirement for the medical condition statement so [they] have less variation around” what providers give to patients. 

“The governor’s approach to this doesn’t legalize marijuana. It doesn’t make it a medical marijuana prescription, so we’ve really had to work with our physicians on how to approach this with their patients.” — Newkirk to LEO Weekly

The hospital’s providers also advise patients that cannabis remains outlawed in Kentucky, and they could still face negative ramifications from drug tests or child custody cases.

Maggie Roetker, director of public relations for Norton Healthcare, which has five hospitals in Louisville, told LEO Weekly that the network would issue paperwork to patients that complies with Beshear’s order. 

“Our main goal, as always, is to ensure our patients receive the care they need,” she said. “This executive order is similar to other situations that require verification of a medical condition.” 

David McArthur, director of public relations for UofL Health, in a statement to LEO Weekly said the hospital “cannot recommend that its providers certify patients for the use of medical cannabis at this time.” McArthur said the decision was “based on scientific literature” but that “the ultimate decision on whether to provide certification is up to each provider.”  

“UofL Health trusts its providers to make the best decisions for each individual patient,” he said.  

Allison Perry, spokesperson for the University of Kentucky’s medical campus in Lexington, said medical cannabis “is not part of the treatment protocol … at UK HealthCare.”  

“Because medical cannabis products are not [Food and Drug Administration]-approved, physicians cannot prescribe medical cannabis,” she said. 

Under the executive order, individuals with one of the 21 qualifying medical conditions are proactively pardoned for possessing up to eight ounces of cannabis as long that it is purchased in another state and the person has a receipt for the purchase and a written certification from a doctor. 

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