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Kentucky Addresses Cannabis Reform Through New Legislation |

Kentucky lawmakers and activists met in Kentucky last week to discuss two reform proposals. But, they remain divided on how far this effort should be taken.

It is still unclear if they will legalize medical cannabis or recreational marijuana. 

Local television station WDRB reported that “state representatives and members of the Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition, ACLU and NAACP met Tuesday in support of legalization” in the capital city of Frankfort, with the focus primarily aimed at two bills brought by Democratic state House Representative Nima Kulkarni. 

Kulkarni had already filed two pieces legislation in November. Kulkarni proposed a constitutional change to permit adults 21 years and over to own, possess and sell up to one ounce (or five) of cannabis without any legal penalties. If the amendment were to pass, “the question would be added to the November ballot,” according to local television station WLKY.

Kulkarni’s other bill would decriminalize cannabis in the state while also expunging the records of those previously convicted of pot charges.

“I am sponsoring these bills for several reasons, any one of which should be enough for them to become law,” Kulkarni said in a statement after the bills were filed late last year. “First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement. A second reason is that cannabis should not be illegal for thousands of patients with cancer and vets suffering from PTSD to have access to the medication they require.

“Third, cannabis decriminalization would give the state a much-needed source of reliable revenue without raising current taxes by a single cent. And, finally, polls have repeatedly shown a majority of Kentuckians backs decriminalization and allowing cannabis to be used responsibly by adults.”

Democratic state House Representative Attica Scott, a co-sponsor of the legislation, told WLKY that legislators in the Bluegrass State “have the opportunity to take the question to the voters in Kentucky and ask them, not politicians who want to be obstructionist, but the people who can benefit most from the legalization and decriminalization.”

Scott indicated that she considers the two bills a complete package.

“You can’t have one without the other, and I have been very clear that I am not going to sign onto legalization legislation if we don’t include decriminalization,” Scott said, as quoted by WLKY.

Other lawmakers from Kentucky support a new approach to cannabis reform that focuses on medical cannabis.

WDRB said that lawmakers there expect the debate of this year’s legislative session “to revolve around medical marijuana, and some hope with the changes they’ve made to the bill, it will get through the Senate.”

Republican state House Representative Jason Nemes, who has previously pushed for medical marijuana in Kentucky, said that it’s an area with clear support from both voters and lawmakers.

“That’s the place where we have the votes, and we’re fine-tuning some things to try to make sure that we get a vote in the Senate,” Nemes told WDRB.

“Thirty-six states already have it,” he added. “There’s a lot of people who it would help, so I think medical marijuana is the step that Kentucky needs to take.”

One poll conducted in 2020 showed that just over 60% of Kentuckians support the legalization of pot for all purposes, and 90% supported medicinal cannabis. 

The same 2012 poll showed that less than 40% of respondents preferred cannabis for all uses.