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Kentucky Lawmakers File Cannabis Legalization Bills

Kentucky may soon see reform in cannabis policy through the introduction of separate bills that legalize both adult- and medical-use cannabis.

Rep. Rachel Roberts and Senator David Yates (Democrats) introduced similar bills to eliminate cannabis prohibition in Kentucky’s Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday. L.E.T.T.S. is the title of this bill. The Grow Act (House Bill 521, Senate Bill 186) would allow legalization of both recreational and medical cannabis.

“Our legislation is the comprehensive plan that Kentuckians deserve, and it builds on what’s worked in other states while avoiding their mistakes,” Roberts said in a press conference on Thursday. “This would be a boon for our economy and farmers alike, plus give state and local governments a major new source of revenue.”

The bill’s title stands for legalize, expunge, treat, and tax, the lawmakers noted. Adults would have the right to possess one ounce or more of cannabis in public places and twelve ounces in private locations. The use of cannabis to treat any medical condition “for which an authorized practitioner believes that a cardholder patient may receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the use of medical cannabis” would also be legalized by the bill.

Both patients and adult would be allowed up to 1 ounce each of cannabis. The home cultivation of up 10 mature cannabis plants is also allowed. Additionally, the bill contains provisions that allow for automatic expulsion of misdemeanor cannabis-related charges within one year. Yates noted that the bill would help relieve pressure on Kentucky’s crowded jails and free police to concentrate on other matters.

“By decriminalizing low-level marijuana offenses, it allows police and the courts to re-prioritize their resources toward addressing more serious crimes,” said Sen. Yates. “Minor marijuana possession offenders, many of them young people, should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it. Too many of these people are in prison for this crime. Our lockups are full of them, and that is both unjust and costly.”

This measure establishes a 6 per cent state tax on marijuana products. Local governments could also set a tax as high as 5 percent. Roberts claimed that Kentucky could create up to $100m in tax revenue annually by legalizing cannabis sales and production, according to information from Illinois.

“Make no mistake: Kentuckians are growing cannabis, they are selling cannabis, they are consuming cannabis,” said Roberts. “We just aren’t regulating it for their safety or benefiting from the tax revenue it should be generating. We are leaving money on the table, and at the same time, we are ignoring the wants of our citizens.”

The revenue from cannabis taxes could be used for funding substance abuse treatment programs, scholarships and grants to those communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

“Our plan is both comprehensive and caring,” Roberts said. “It helps those who are sick, it gives a second chance to those who shouldn’t have been charged, and it would put Kentucky almost overnight at the epicenter of a multi-billion dollar business. We shouldn’t have to wait another year to reap these considerable benefits.”

A Medical Cannabis Bill was also filed

Jason Nemes, Republican Representative of Kentucky said that he doesn’t believe Kentucky legislators will approve a law that legalizes recreational marijuana. But he also said that his bill to legalize some forms of medical cannabis, House Bill 136, is more likely to gain approval, saying the measure has an “overwhelming majority of support” in both the state Senate and House.

“I don’t think, I know there’s no appetite in the General Assembly for recreational marijuana at this point,” Nemes said. “Medical marijuana is my fight, and that’s the fight where we have the overwhelming majority of support in the House and Senate.”

Nemes filed his bill at the House of Representatives in January 4. The measure would allow patients who have certain medical conditions to be able to consume medicinal cannabis products that contain no more than 70% THC. It does not allow medical marijuana to be smoked and it prohibits home growing. Nemes stated that there is increasing support to legalize medical cannabis, even from Senator President Robert Stivers.

“President Stivers has said a number of times that he acknowledges it does help some people. He lists some conditions. [House Bill 136],” Nemes said. “He said he could support a narrow bill for medical marijuana. My goodness, this is as narrow as I could get it.”