Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana & Sports Betting

Lawmakers in the House and Senate moved at the same time on historic legislation legalizing medical marijuana and sports betting in Kentucky.

Representatives in the state House passed Senate Bill 47, which would set up the regulative authority, qualifying conditions, and parameters for the use and sale of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth. The legislation will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2025.

“This is a truly historic day here in the commonwealth and one that many people deserve—especially the constituents who’ve approached me over the years to share their stories,” Sen. Steve West, the bill’s sponsor said. “This is a deeply personal and important issue to thousands of Kentuckians who have called for safe options for their medical care and treatment. For that reason, it’s important to me.

Senators in the upper chamber acted simultaneously on Thursday to approve House Bill 551, legalizing sports betting in Kentucky. House Bill 551 cleared the Senate 25-12, receiving the required two-thirds vote necessary in a non-budget session to approve a revenue-creating measure. The measure would legalize, regulate and tax sports wagering in Kentucky—all under the authority of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Only licensed tracks would be permitted to obtain a sports wagering license. 

“I am so pleased my Senate colleagues approved Rep. Meredith’s legislation,” Senate FLoor Leader Damon Thayer said. “I want to congratulate him for carrying on the good work of our good friend, Adam Koenig, and I was honored to carry the bill in the Senate. Sports betting is something I have wanted for Kentucky for a long time because I view it as an extension of our time-honored tradition of betting on horse races. I look forward to Kentuckians being able to place their wagers right here in the commonwealth instead of traveling across state lines to spend their money in other states. This is a great day for the commonwealth and its people. Freedom won the day.” 

Both issues have been highly politicized, with Democrats and Republicans seeking validation from voters for moving the issues forward. Both bills have also been mainstays in the discussion in Frankfort, and represent years, and in some cases decades of debate.

Governor Andy Beshear took action via executive order to legalize cannabis In Kentucky last year, which the Kentucky Democratic Party made sure to remind Kentuckians, of as he seeks a second term in office.

“This is a win for thousands of Kentuckians including our veterans suffering from PTSD, people with chronic pain and those with a terminal illness. Once again Governor Beshear’s strong leadership and his people-over-politics approach has delivered results for the Commonwealth,” said Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge. “Andy Beshear never stopped fighting for those suffering, took action and reached across the aisle to ensure more Kentuckians can have relief and options without turning to deadly, addictive opioids that have devastated families and communities across the Commonwealth.”