Could Kentucky be the next state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana?
On Thursday, Northern Kentucky Rep. Rachel Roberts, a Democrat from Newport, filed a bill to do just that. The legislation would also wipe criminal records for Kentuckians with marijuana-related misdemeanors, according to a press release from Roberts.
This isn't the first time this kind of legislation has been introduced in Kentucky.
In the past, former Eastern Kentucky lawmaker Rep. Cluster Howard introduced similar legislation. The bill never received a hearing or a vote. He previously told The Courier Journal he thought a recreational marijuana bill didn't have a chance of passing because of the makeup of the legislature.
Republicans have a supermajority in the Kentucky General Assembly chambers — and most oppose legalizing recreational marijuana, according to the Courier Journal.
Last year, the Kentucky House voted 65-30 to pass a medical cannabis bill. It got delayed in the Senate when lawmakers pivoted their focus toward the state budget and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Kentucky has been desperate for new revenue for years to deal with rising costs in education, public employee pensions and healthcare," Roberts said in the release.
She estimated the state could see as much as $100 million annually in new tax revenue.
Roberts pointed to the 15 states that have already legalized recreational marijuana, like Illinois, as an example of what Kentucky could gain from the business. The state brought in more than $150 million in tax revenue since sales began a little more than a year ago, according to the release.
Roberts said the legislation would also give people the chance to get their criminal record expunged and give farmers a new crop to produce.
What does Robert's bill do?
Robert's suggested modeling the marijuana revenue spending plan after the state's approach to budgeting its portion of the 1998 national tobacco settlement, according to the release.
That means her bill would:
- Dedicate up to 25% of the state’s cannabis revenue toward funding addiction treatment
- Reduce the Commonwealth’s opioid epidemic
- Provide a funding boost to educational and economic opportunities for minority groups who have been disproportionately affected by "the war on drugs" according to the release.
- Decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
Leftover money would go toward the General Fund.
Could I grow my own? Where could I buy it?
If you want to grow some bud at home, it would cost you $250 for a permit to have five mature plants and five immature ones.
If you don't have a green thumb, you would be able to purchase marijuana from at least two retailers in each Kentucky county if you are at least 21 years old. Larger counties would be barred from having more than one per 2,300 people. Retailers would only be allowed to sell marijuana-related products.
You would not be allowed to smoke marijuana in public.
How would regulations work?
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would oversee the annual licensing for cultivators, processors, testers, and retailers.
Most license holders could only have one type of license. Retailers could have multiple locations in the state.
Some people would be barred from those licenses.
- People with a marijuana misdemeanor that had not been expunged.
- People who had been convicted of a felony in the past five years
- People convicted of other controlled-substance crime(s) within the past two years
Julia is the Northern Kentucky government reporter through the Report For America program. The Enquirer needs local donors to help fund her grant-funded position. If you want to support Julia's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at this website or email her editor Carl Weiser at [email protected] to find out how you can help fund her work.
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