Kentucky is generally one of the slower states to adopt progressive cannabis laws. Currently, recreational weed remains illegal. So does medical marijuana. In fact, Kentucky is one of the 17 last states to implement some form of legal medical marijuana program.
However, all of that could be changing. This week, a lawmaker in the state pre-filed a new marijuana related bill. If the bill passes into law, it would bring sweeping changes to the state’s currently very restrictive weed laws.
Kentucky’s Proposed Legalization Bill
The potential new bill was pre-filed by Representative Cluster Howard. His proposal would make a number of big changes to Kentucky’s cannabis laws. Most notably, these changes include the following:
- It will be legal for adults 21 and older to purchase, possess, and consume marijuana.
- The bill would decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis.
- Similarly, the proposed bill would establish a framework for regulating and taxing recreational retail sales.
- Howard’s proposal would put the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in charge of administering legal weed.
- Specifically, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would issue four types of licenses. These include cultivator licenses, processing licenses, lab testing licenses, and retail licenses. Per local news source WKYT, businesses would have to renew their licenses every year.
- Each county in the state will be allowed to have up to two legal retailers. Larger counties can have more than two retailers, but no more than one retailer per every 2,300 residents.
- Legal retailers in Kentucky will only be allowed to sell cannabis and cannabis products.
- Under Howard’s bill, tax revenues would fund public retirement funds. Specifically, WKYT reports that his plan will allocate 75 percent of weed taxes to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System. Meanwhile, the remaining 25 percent would be to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.
Importantly, Howard’s bill also takes into account some of the social harm already caused by current prohibition laws. Specifically, his bill would create a pathway for people convicted of a marijuana misdemeanor to have their records expunged.
It’s not clear how many people this would affect. But typically, legislation like this has far-reaching impacts in states that implement such allowances.
Changes Coming in Kentucky?
It is not clear how much support Howard’s proposal will receive from other lawmakers in the state. But he has already started articulating what he sees as the many benefits of such a move.
“Other states have shown that legalizing cannabis for adult use is a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Rep. Howard told WKYT. “It’s a major revenue generator. It frees up critical jail and prison space. It helps counteract the deadly opioid epidemic. And it gives farmers a major new cash crop. The longer we wait, the more we miss out on these benefits.”
Next year could be a big one for cannabis law in Kentucky. In addition to Howard’s proposal, it appears that lawmakers in the state will consider a bill to legalize medical marijuana next year. House Bill 136 is slated to be one of the first major pieces of legislation to be considered in 2020.