Cannabis Legalization Bills Coming to Kentucky in 2022

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Kentucky Representative Nima Kulkarni, D, said she pre-filed two cannabis legalization bills ahead of the 2022 regular session. Each bill filed would work together to legalize cannabis.

The first bill would have the legislature adopt a policy as a statutory measure. This means it’s something that lawmakers can enact themselves with the help of the Governor. Governor Andy Beshear, D, has favored cannabis legalization previously and pushed for medical cannabis legalization in 2021. Unfortunately, the legislative session ended before lawmakers could properly discuss the matter. 

The second bill would enact legislation through a constitutional amendment. This would be presented to the Kentucky people in a special vote. This would create a more permanent solution to cannabis legalization. Plus it would give cannabis the proper protections given to amendments to make it difficult to overturn. It also gives the people a say in the law, which advocates are excited about. 

“I am sponsoring these bills for several reasons, any one of which should be enough for them to become law,” Representative Kulkarni said in a press release.

“First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement,” she said. “Second, thousands of citizens, from cancer patients to veterans suffering from PTSD, should have the right to use something that gives them the mental and physical relief they deserve without relying on stronger, potentially addictive medicine. Third, cannabis decriminalization would give the state a much-needed source of reliable revenue without raising current taxes a single cent.”

Response 

Advocates appear excited about the possibility of cannabis legalization in Kentucky. ACLU of Kentucky spoke about current laws and the need for change, which Representative Kulkarni is bringing to the state. 

“Because of outdated and ill-enforced laws, thousands of Kentuckians have lost time and opportunities due to criminal convictions, and thousands more have suffered needlessly because Kentucky blocks cannabis’ medicinal use,” they said. “It is past time for the commonwealth to join the 36 other states that have removed most if not all of these barriers, which is why we are proud to add our name to those supporting Rep. Nima Kulkarni’s legislation.”

In 2019, a poll showed that 90 percent of Kentucky voters favored medical cannabis. 49 percent in favor of recreational legalization. This survey, although a few years old, shows the general voter increase in a cannabis program.

The Kentucky state director for Minorities for Medical Marijuana, C.J. Carter, also commented on Representative Kulkarni’s pre-filed bills and the importance cannabis represents to the state. 

“We’re at the precipice of the opening of the cannabis industry here in Kentucky,” Carter said. “This is indeed a dangerous moment in time for Black and Brown people. There’s a new multi-billion dollar industry that will soon open on both the Federal and State level while simultaneously, people who look like me remain criminalized behind bars and are once again being left out of the conversation.”

“We now have the opportunity to write a different narrative in Kentucky that would benefit us first and foremost,” he said. “The State of Kentucky and its history as it relates to cannabis owes a tremendous debt to the Black Community and that starts with this legislation that is being introduced by Rep. Kulkarni.”

Future

While these bills have been pre-filed, all that can be done now is to wait. The legislative session will begin in January. Activists are taking a special interest in how other lawmakers react. To send the amendment to the people, it must receive a ⅗ majority in both the House and the Senate. If it fails there, it will not make it to the people for their vote. As more information becomes available, we will update you with the latest.

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