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Prosecutor warns of unintended effects, arrests under Beshear's medical marijuana order

Prosecutor warns of unintended effects, arrests under Beshear's medical marijuana order (CNN Newsource/CBS Newspath)
Prosecutor warns of unintended effects, arrests under Beshear's medical marijuana order (CNN Newsource/CBS Newspath)
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KENTON COUNTY, Ky. (WKRC) - Governor Andy Beshear is pushing to make medical marijuana legal in Kentucky, but some say the way he is doing it could result in people getting arrested and even ending up with felony charges, even though they think they are following the law.

The governor signed an executive order Tuesday pre-pardoning anyone who meets certain conditions and has less than eight ounces of marijuana for medical purposes.

The problem is there are several related marijuana charges someone could still face.

Plus, to get the pardon, you will need to be charged and possibly arrested.

Governor Beshear says something needs to be done to help those suffering from certain conditions in Kentucky.

Commonwealth's Attorney for Kenton County Rob Sanders says the governor is creating a huge mess of future litigation.

"It's going to be hell on prosecutors and courts to try and sort out the mess created by haphazardly repealing a law without the use of the legislature," Sanders said.

The governor is pre-pardoning anyone who meets certain conditions of the misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana but to get a pardon, Sanders says you first must be charged with a crime.

"You still get handcuffed. You still get taken to jail. You still get booked into jail. I mean, you bond out of jail pretty fast if you're only charges possession of marijuana. You know, there's a lot of folks who won't realize that all this is going to take place. They think they've just got to get out of jail free card and that's not what's going to happen," Sanders said.

Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan are the only nearby states with medical marijuana programs.

Ohio will not let out of state residents purchase cannabis.

You could drive to Michigan where marijuana is legal recreationally, but you would have to drive through Ohio with marijuana and could be charged with possession. That means you must drive directly to Illinois.

There are also additional charges you could face in Kentucky which the pardon does not cover. For instance, if you try to grow your own, that is cultivation.

"We're going to end up seeing a lot of people get arrested and potentially a lot of people end up in a lot more trouble than they would have been for just simple possession of marijuana if they think that, 'Oh, the governor told me I can possess marijuana now,' but they've still got a gun strapped to their hip or in the glove box of their car," Sanders said.

Local 12 reached out to Governor Beshear's Director of Communications Crystal Staley requesting an interview but only received a statement that says:

As the state’s former top prosecutor, Gov. Andy Beshear is committed to working with the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police and the Kentucky State Police to address any concerns. The executive order does not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023, which allows plenty of time for both law enforcement and Kentuckians to understand its easy-to-follow and specific criteria. Over 90% of Kentuckians support medical cannabis, and 37 states have already legalized it. It is past time to provide relief to those with chronic and terminal medical conditions, including our veterans suffering from PTSD. Instead of opposing this much-needed action, we invite prosecutors to work with our office and help educate the community on the process for possessing and using medical cannabis.

Local 12 asked about the related marijuana charges sanders brought up and about going to get marijuana from other states, but Staley has not answered those questions as of this writing.

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Click here to read the executive order.

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