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Episode 26 Matthew Bratcher, KY NORML Executive Director

This week over at the Bluegrass Cannabis Podcast, we're talking to KY NORML Executive Director Matthew Bratcher about legalization in Kentucky, good outlets for a CBD dispensary in Kentucky, and bad faith actors already appearing in Kentucky!

Matt and Lauren Bratcher with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear at the Capitol in Frankfort
Matt and Lauren Bratcher with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear

[00:00:00.970] - Elijah

Welcome to the bluegrass podcast. Today we're talking with Matt Bratcher, executive director of the

Kentucky chapter of normal. We're going to be talking about the chances for new cannabis legislation

this session, the new executive order from the governor's office, and the dangers that Kentucky ins

are already facing from unscrupulous actors in the cannabis space. All that and a very special

musical feature by the Low water bridge band. Thanks for stopping by today and let's get right to it.


[00:00:32.410] - Elijah

And did you want to start out talking about how you got into cannabis a little bit and how you started

working with Kentucky normal?


[00:00:40.190] - Matthew Bratcher

Sure. I've got a long history of history with cannabis, goes back a long time, probably younger than I

should have been, but changed the past early on, obviously it was just kind of rebelliousness and

things like that. But as I got older, I've realized that it was really helping me out through anxiety, but

the pain that I got from my injuries in football at high school, collegiate level, and so I started to really

appreciate it a whole lot more and really got into the activism side of it. I've been really wanting to for

a long time. I tried to get a state chapter started or university chapter started while I was at western,

but I had trouble getting any faculty advisors to join in. Surprisingly, they always got to put on the back

burner. It was something I always wanted to do, and it's a continuing education, and it never really left

my mind when I went off to school at the state. And when I came back after a few years and I started

working for a company in Olingreen here called at the time, it was ironic. It eventually changed his

name to enlightenment, and it was a company in the cannabis space.


[00:02:13.610] - Matthew Bratcher

What they did was they set up signs all over the country. If there was a dispensary, they was likely

inside there either running their digital menus or having like an internal advertising set up through

digital screening. So with the way advertising is in cannabis, which is extremely strict, so there was

some pretty heavy rules to deal with, it was really my first introduction into the cannabis industry. It

was working on that side of things, getting different things going, and making sure that any of the

advertisements that we ran in store were always compliant with state laws. They needed to be vetted

through their local cannabis council or whatever. We had to go follow that. So there was a lot of

working with that in there. And it was just one day we all looked up at each other and here we are in all

these legal states, doing business in all these legal states. Here we are in Kentucky, and we probably

have the best state for it. And we need to bring it back. We need to bring it here. We're seeing what it's

like in these other states. And we're like, we got to do more to bring it back here.


[00:03:32.230] - Matthew Bratcher

And so we reached out to the Normal chapter that was sort of in place and they were sort of defunct

and they were like, look, you all want it. And that's how it started. They want it out. Really? They tried

to sell it to us and the national was like, no, they can't sell you the chapter not normal, no. So I was

like, what good? They're like, well, we're going to pull their thing. And they're like, well, could we? And

they're like, absolutely. So that was back in 2017, around September 2017 or so. And we've been in it

ever since, going to Frankfurt, meeting legislators, working with these other groups, kind of getting

used to the idea of just kind of getting our footing first few years, and now here we are a few years

later. I think we've got a pretty good idea and landscape things and we're really pushing hard and I

think we got a good set up, good machine, and we got some great backing and resources through

national. So it's been a trip to get here, but it's been awesome.


[00:04:49.980] - Elijah

And you all have really taken off, I think, at least for my radar this year with a lot of your projects and a

lot of your activism and advocacy in Frankfurt especially. Do you want to talk about that some, this

legislative session?


[00:05:03.110] - Matthew Bratcher

Oh, yeah, honestly, all the kudos to that goes to Lauren, our deputy director. My wife, she has really

busted her tail to ensure a lot of stuff, reaching out, working with these other groups, making sure

projects come to fruition. She's been taking the lead on a lot of stuff this year and she.


[00:05:24.550] - Elijah

Has knocked it out of the park 100%. And I've noticed that your social media is much more active,

your website is much more active. You all have really stepped up your game in a lot of different ways

and are running with the ball in a big way this year. That set up you had in the...


[00:05:40.930] - Matthew Bratcher

Tunnel, that was a very nice working with Kentucky moms for medical marijuana with that tunnel

project was awesome. They had tons of great pictures of patients throughout the state, and I think it

was a great display. 350 pictures of patients across the state. I think just about every county, every

district was covered and there was even some that had passed away. Gatewood galbrook up there, a

couple of some of the activists that have been that aren't with us anymore.


[00:06:17.830] - Elijah

They had those great gatewood was right bumper stickers out at the table.


[00:06:22.890] - Matthew Bratcher

Yeah, I think it was a good statement. And our side of it was really putting the facts up, making sure

that as the legislators walk through that tunnel over to the capital, that they're not just confronted with

the compassion side of it. These are the faces that need it, but also, here are some facts. Here are

some studies that back up this choice. 37 plus states have already made this decision. They're not

reinventing. They haven't reinvented the wheel. There's nothing novel about what we're doing or trying

to do. So putting these facts in front of them, I think that's so important. Especially for years it's been

compassion, compassion and it's really changed a lot of people's minds over the years. But I think up

to a certain point it doesn't right. And there needs to be more people. Some people are more analytic,

some people are more emotional as far as how they have their decision making, that's okay.

Everybody's different and not one right way or wrong way to go through a process of making a

decision right. So all we can do is give the best facts for them. We got to get the best, greatest

studies that we can find that not just support us, because that's obvious, but just all the newest

research that we can get out.


[00:07:54.870] - Matthew Bratcher

That's what we can do. We've got access to so many new things. As they come out through national,

they like to make sure that, hey, new studies are coming out. One of our directors, Paul Armantono,

he's forefront in making sure that we got access to this stuff. He works at University of Oaksterdam

and he's just a fantastic guy. He makes sure that we've got these nice books that are it's called

clinical applications cannabis. And he keeps it updated about every couple of years or so with the

latest study. So it's a fantastic resource. And I think this year we're going to get a copy out to all of the

senators. Show us how cannabis can affect the different aspects of someone's help, how it helps.

We're also going to hit them up with a bunch of facts and figures from all across the cannabis.

Whether it's got to do with decriminalization, so very important, especially with working a medical

program, I think it's so important to have a tandem decriminalization program in place as well and

show them the facts and figures about that, where the disparity and arrests are. Show them how team

use drops.


[00:09:12.470] - Matthew Bratcher

When it becomes regulated, it's harder to get your hands on it. So there's a lot of good things like Duis

go down because people are drinking less honestly. And that's all good thing. And it's kind of hard to

explain to these people that it's great for our health, overall general health of our people, when for

years they have been told how bad it is. We don't have an endocannabinoid system inside of our body

for no reason, right? So it's just now getting around to where doctors are being taught this. People are

starting to be more educated that it is very important. It's important for our overall health. And so to

get them to change their mind on this, it's just by putting these things, facts and figures back in front

of them and just letting them know this. Not that you've been lied to, but they were mistaken. Not that

you're wrong, but you just got the wrong information. You haven't made the wrong decision based on

what you thought you knew, right? It's basically what I would try to tell you. You haven't made the

wrong decision what you thought you knew. That's a very valid decision come to, but here are some

new facts.


[00:10:30.720] - Matthew Bratcher

So let's look at these facts. Let's add that into what you think you know. This is coming into a new

kind of stance on cannabis policy reform.


[00:14:26.870] - Elijah

and if you could take three or four key things when you're talking to legislators, what are the things

that you want to introduce them to in cannabis? Either ideas or specific legislative points like

homegrove, what are you really talking to them about in the nuts and bolts of what are you asking for,

for patients or for rep or wherever you see this going?


[00:14:51.790] - Matthew Bratcher

Well, right now it's all medical and indeed crimp, right. That's so important. But I think medical will

probably come around first, and that's okay. We're going to have to trial an error. And I think especially

with Andy Beshear's executive order on medical marijuana, I think that's going to move things a little

faster because of just all the confusion that's out there right now. Before I get talking a little bit about

your approach, I want to talk about this. So many messages from members, curious folks, of asking

about medical marijuana certifications or cars or whatever you want to call them, right? So these little

businesses are springing up everywhere faster saying, hey, we can certify you. And they're charging

upwards to almost $350 for a visit. And it's not exactly illegal, but it's not needed. Really all you need

with this executive order, your doctor's statement saying that you have one of these conditions, it

doesn't have to say what it is, because if it says out there, that could be a HIPAA issue. All it's got to

say is, I think my patient, your name qualifies, my doctor's information, patient information, that's

literally all you need.


[00:16:14.880] - Matthew Bratcher

You don't need go out, have a new evaluation, you don't need to go out and pay for all these things if

you got a doctor. And that's one thing with these places are trying to fill in the gap. But if you've got a

physician that you go to and it has to be an MD. Or a do, it can't be anybody else. If they write you that

certification and then you match the criteria, that else is in that EO, then you're good to go. But see,

these businesses are filling the gap where there's a lot of folks in this state that they don't have

insurance or they don't have a PCP and so how are they going to get a doctor to give them a thumbs

up if they don't have somebody they go to? They can't go to urgent care like they would if they were

normally sick, right. They got to figure something out and these places are kind of filling that gap.

Right. Overall, it's not a bad thing for them, but they're not giving out good information. It's a lot of bad

information. It's making these patients feel like they are going to be okay.


[00:17:17.780] - Matthew Bratcher

They keep saying that you're safe, you're good, you're good, you're legal. Legal. Here's the thing. It's

not legal at all. Still. The executive order is a pardon. So if it was legal, you wouldn't need a pardon.

But what this kind of does, if you fit all the criteria, you got your thing and the cops do arrest you or

cite you, you'll have to deal through the court system. That's another thing. They don't know exactly

how it's all going to play out. We haven't got to that point yet. But these people are being kind of led

astray by some of these businesses, making them think they're legal, safe when they're not. There's

still a big risk out there. If you were to drive over to Illinois and come back, you could still get in

trouble, cross the state lines. That's still a federal issue, right. Even though Biden had some pardons

recently. And that's great. And it's a good step in the right direction, even federally, but it's still illegal

to cross state lines with it. If you have under 8oz here, that's okay. But that's not going to be are you

going to be able to bring 8oz in from Illinois?


[00:18:25.210] - Matthew Bratcher

Well, no. The amount that you're allowed to have at any given point in Illinois as a wreck state is much

less than that. So you'd have to get it and bring it back, go back over, bring some more back, you know

what I'm saying? So you got to be able to keep your mind on the state laws which vary place to place,

especially if you're going to Mission and coming back to Indiana or you come through. You're also a

different state having a lot of issues. And if you're in a metro area like Louisville, you don't have any

problems. Right. They passed that lleto a few years ago where it's a lowest law enforcement priority

ordinance on campus, where if you pulled over something, you got it. They're not going to write you a

ticket for campus. If you get caught to stop or whatever and it's their personal amount, they're just

going to let you go, which is probably about an ounce or so given as long as it doesn't look like you're

trying to traffic, right? They're going to let you go. And with this executive order, you're going to be

fine, right?


[00:19:27.240] - Matthew Bratcher

More than likely, you're going to be fine in the metro area, whether it's Lexington, maybe Lexon, Lexon,

they'll probably cite you, and you could show up in court later on and show the judge what's going on.

You might not have to miss any work that way, but say you're out in the rural area. Cops are just going

to do things the way they always have. I think chief Police and Murray said that's exactly what they're

going to do. They're going to do things the way they always have. They're going to let the court sort it

out. So if you get caught, they're going to get you. They're going to arrest you. They're going to put you

you may miss the day at work. You may get put in a newspaper. You may have all these other things

happen, and then you got to go. Maybe you get caught on the weekend where you can't get out until

like, Monday. So you're there all week, and so you got court fees in jail back. You got all these other

things that you've got to now deal with on top of getting this pardon taken care of now because you

thought you were safe, because you had this certification from this place that thought you were okay.


[00:20:28.090] - Matthew Bratcher

And then they come to find out the judge is like, I don't think that's a bona fide practitioner patient

relationship. That's not your regular doctor. So it doesn't count then. They don't have that pardon

ability if the judge makes the call like that. So there's a lot of confusion still in how things are going

and how things will work out. And so we're still really just kind of waiting to see. And I hate to be

who's going to hate to see who's going to be the first one to get in trouble over it, but it's going to

happen to see how this executive order plays out, which would be fantastic. Hopefully the confusion

and all these businesses springing up. Taking advantage of people, I think, just reinforces that we

need to get something done medically. And that's going to be something that we use as a talking

point to legislators to segue back into what we're talking about, what you asked me about originally.

These are all very important things. Bring up legislators like, you know, who are these doctors? Are

they actually seeing these doctors? What's the process going on? Do you know what's going to stop

that?


[00:21:40.140] - Matthew Bratcher

Putting in a program regulating people worried about extra, having possession charges and stuff

going forward. You don't know how we stop that. We regulate it. So that's going to be a major talking

point on this. And they're going to be like, no, you're right, you're right, you're right. So you can't just let

it stay like it is, right? So that's going to be one major talking point. Another one is homegrowns are

great. We need to have them overall. Right. Because say you're a patient and this is what we'll say,

and this is what the conversation we have. Say you're a patient and you've got a certain amount of

strain that works with your condition. Right. Or few strains that works with your condition. Well, the

dispensary or dispensaries, if you're lucky enough to be in an area that has access to more than 1,

may not have that strain. There may not be that strain anywhere. So being able to grow it, which will

not be easy for a patient, will not be easy for anybody, really. It's time consuming. It's expensive. A

patient who has to go through that whole process, they're not going to sell it, and it's the version

they're not going to, like, send it out and sell it in the illegal markets.


[00:23:00.190] - Matthew Bratcher

Right. The unregulated markets for that patient. And that's one of their biggest, and that's one of the

lawmakers'biggest concerns, is that home growth will be taken advantage of. What we've seen in

other states is that's not really the case. Now, there may be one or two bad apples, but that's going to

happen anyway. Whether or not they're allowed to or not, they're going to still try to grow illegal

operations here. That's just, that's just kind of how business works, right? And how regulation works.

There's always going to be some bad actors, bad faith actors out there.


[00:23:32.870] - Elijah

I was going to say, typically the bad faith actors, I think, aren't home growers. They're larger groups or

organizations that are operating illegal growth in premise.


[00:23:44.290] - Matthew Bratcher

Absolutely.


[00:23:44.740] - Elijah

If you're a home grower with a five or ten plant limit, I struggle to see how that has any sort of

relevance to a 500 or even an acre grow, someone's putting out at a scale. And the question of how

much it is is just it feels like nonsense when you see how much product comes out of these larger

operations versus somebody's backyard.


[00:24:10.600] - Matthew Bratcher

Oh, absolutely. And if you're on an eight plant limit, you've got to make sure that your rotation works

so you always have something. Right. So you're not going to have enough for diversion going on like

that. You've got to be able to rotate your crops, all the other things. So it's a very important case for

home growth. Obviously, that's not a diversion issue. It's hard to make sure you've got some really

good stuff. It's easy to mess up. Right. There's a lot of variables that go into growing some good

indoor cannabis, indoor.


[00:24:46.070] - Elijah

But I'll say outdoor is like that's. One issue that's interesting is people go to indoor, and I think for

Kentucky especially, it's like you can grow outside much more easily and much more cost effectively

as a patient.


[00:25:00.270] - Matthew Bratcher

Oh, yeah. And our climate is good for it. That's what we brag about. Right. So what good is our climate

if we're just keeping it in doors. But they're worried about cross pollination with camp and all this

other stuff. Hey, regulate it. We won't have to worry about it. Exactly. When it comes down to it, I know

that may sound like my answer to everything, but it just goes a long way when it comes to cannabis.


[00:25:27.430] - Elijah

It does. And if you had any advice for people that maybe are looking for good resources I know we

talked about these bad faith actors who I know you said aren't doing anything illegal, but I feel are

doing something highly moral, charging for these prescriptions. How can people find resources to

find a doctor who might talk to them or might find an organization that can help them find a doctor to

talk to?


[00:25:55.650] - Matthew Bratcher

Absolutely. Well, you can always reach out to us. We've been trying our best to kind of help people

organize, find out where you're at and all these other things. So you can always reach out to us at

info@bynormal.org. Kynorml.org. We do our best. We also share any of that information within the

other advocate communities who are doing this work, say, with Kentucky Moms for medical

marijuana or whoever it might be that might have a good resource for us national or anything like that.

Kentucky monster marijuana. Maybe an organization want to reach out to. They do the work. Kristen

over there, same with Julie.


[00:26:44.930] - Elijah

And if someone wanted to, say, get involved with normal on a local level or wanted to get engaged

with the legislative process to contact their representative, what might be a good avenue or what

might be a good thing for them to advocate for?


[00:27:01.350] - Matthew Bratcher

Well, the big push really is we are way behind on getting a medical marijuana program. So that's our

big thing. But just any kind of forward progress as far as we're so far behind, any kind of forward

progress is good progress so you can come to normal. Kynormal.org we've got all kinds of good

resources to kind of get involved, get in touch with us to reach out to your legislators, how to call the

LRC, tell your legislature, vote for these bills. Please support cannabis policy reform. You can write

them on your state national level. Let them know, hey, I support this. Please look into supporting

these bills. So there's a lot of ways. We got a lot of resources for people to use and have access to

and working at the local level every once in a while, it's just about getting people together, right? So if

you want to have a little meeting at your local library or someplace where you can have a meeting, you

need some resources, holler as well as, you know, we'll get you some stuff, get you some information

to help pass out, whatever will help you get going.


[00:28:16.030] - Matthew Bratcher

There's a big push, and we want to get as many people involved as possible. That's the key. And the

more our legislators hear from us, the more app they are to change. Some of them will be like, no,

they elected me to make decisions, not to be on their whims. Right. So that's fine. So we have to

change those people's minds. There are also those legislators like, I represent the people. Let me

know what you think. And they literally do polls on their constituents and kind of work from there,

which is a great way to do that. All right, that sounds very, hey, you voted me to represent you. What

do you want? So I think that works for every legislature. It's different, but it's easy to reach out to

them. They're more than happy to talk to you, have a conversation. They represent you. They kind of

want to hear from you know, I know this time of year they're really busy, but it doesn't take nothing to

drop an email. We've got our resources that we can write them. You can just delete the whole letter

that we've got set up and put your own words.


[00:29:15.970] - Matthew Bratcher

Tell your story to these people if you want to. There's all kinds of ways that you can be involved and

help out.


[00:29:23.510] - Elijah

And on a little bit of a positive note, there's been a slight, but I think maybe meaningful change this

year from the legislators where I believe Thayer and Stivers aren't saying yes, but they've said they

won't say no. Can you talk about that a little bit? Because I think that's due to you all and some of the

other groups very much.


[00:29:44.650] - Matthew Bratcher

Well, it's years and years of going up there, right? How many years in a row have there been medical

marijuana bill, and how many years in a row has we had it passed the House? Now it's time for the

Senate to step up, make a difference. Right. That's where things are different. This year. We're starting

in the Senate. There's other bills that will be brought up everywhere else. But, like, as far as a big push,

we got to get the Senate on board because we know in general that the House is on our side there's.

The votes are in there, but we've got and I think we've got the votes in the Senate. We've just got to get

it heard. We got to get the right bill in front of them. We got to get the right information in front of

them. Right. So I think we've got a good way, like you said, that they will not get in the way of it, is

what they said. That's great. That's good. Fantastic. I still like to get them on board, and I'd like to find

out more about why trips them up so much.


[00:30:45.730] - Matthew Bratcher

What's your concerns? That's why we're here. We're here to answer these concerns. We're here as a

resource, not only for our members, but for these legislators. We understand that as a legislator, you

have so many topics being thrown at you here in section. This is a short session, right? I think it is,

yeah. And they're going to have probably a couple of hundred bills or more thrown at them along with

all the amendments that go with it, all the ones that don't make it, all the ones that they have to vote

on, all the committee assignments, so they got a lot of information being thrown at them in the next

60 days or so. And you got to make it easy on them. You got to find out what they want. Okay, all right,

what do you want to hear? Right? Like, what do you want to know about, what are your questions?

Because if you just give them a bunch of information that they don't want to know about helping you

out, they're not going to look at it. But you find what they're interested in, find out how it works. We're

sending out where we brought people down into their committee assignments and we're looking like,

okay, what facts can we send these that relate to their committees?


[00:31:58.290] - Matthew Bratcher

And so that's another thing that they can be like, oh, wait, yeah, all of these kind of fit with what I sit

on. So it's not a bunch of useless information about agriculture if you're on Justice Committee, right.

It's all medical stuff if you're on a health and wellness that ain't got nothing to do with wreck or things

like that. So it's just giving them the information that's relevant to where they sit it that's what they

work on. And I think that'll go a long way too.


[00:32:28.290] - Elijah

And was there anything that you wanted to talk about or that you'd like to get the word out about

events coming up in the future, pushes that you all are going to have, just information you think might

be good for listeners to know?


[00:32:43.730] - Matthew Bratcher

If you sign up for our newsletter, you can stay up to date on anything that's coming up, any events, any

major pushes for legislation, any news that comes out. We've got a great build tracker on our website

that tells you when you win, like first thing in the morning, it doesn't update. So like, if something

happened last night, first thing in the morning updates, you'll find out if it has moved from committee

or got signed to a committee or move on a boat or if they've added new co sponsors. So that's a very

good resource for people who want to keep up with the bills. And we've got them all kind of like lined

up on there. There's just a lot of ways to kind of keep them bored. And I know I keep plugging that

website, right? So that's where we got a ton of resources. Got great blogs, good information on there

too. And you were talking about where are we going to be working on getting a directory set up for

cannabis businesses, ancillary companies, legal companies, attorneys, when doctors and legitimate.

Ones come through for things like that. We'll have them up on a directory, too.


[00:33:56.410] - Matthew Bratcher

These are people that will bet because we're going to put our organization's name on it, but we're

going to try to get us a good directory going so we'll have another resource for our members, for the

people of Kentucky.


[00:34:09.560] - Elijah

And before I let you go, because you brought up the directory and this is not asking for an

endorsement of certain businesses in Kentucky, but are there two or three places or businesses that

are reliable CBD sources if people don't want to travel out of state that they can go to that are still

Kentucky or Kentucky?


[00:34:30.140] - Matthew Bratcher

Proud oh, absolutely. There are some good ones. They've got stores in Kentucky, Indiana, and also

one Love Hemp Dispensary. They've got stores in Kentucky, Indiana. I'm pretty sure both of them ship

anywhere in the state, probably anywhere in the country, honestly. I know they take good care and the

quality of products, and I know this is a little stable. I used to work with Nancy a few years back, and I

know for a fact that she goes through and they say try all the brands that come through. They test all

the stuff to make sure that it's good quality products before they even put it on their shelves. And I

know Deed over 502 is the same way. They got their own brands and stuff. They got some other

ancillary brands that show up that they wouldn't put them up there if they didn't believe in them. So

those are two that I absolutely for sure. If you're a little bit more central Kentucky, you think Thomas

Matthews got a shop. CBD pharmacy farm. Farm. Yeah.


[00:35:40.670] - Elijah

Matt, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it.


[00:35:44.910] - Matthew Bratcher

Thanks. My pleasure.


[00:35:45.860] - Elijah

Elijah if you'd like to listen to the Low Water Bridge Band in their song Two Stone to Care, you can find

the link in our show notes as well as the description for this episode. Are you a bluegrass or country

band? Do you want to get the word out? Do you have a song about being stoned? Send it on in. The

Bluegrass Podcast is looking for submissions. If you'd like your song to be featured on the podcast,

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at bluegrasscanna. Thank you so much for listening and stay safe. The bluegrass podcast, old

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