UPDATE: Kentucky House passes bill to legalize medical marijuana

The much-debated measure now moves to the Senate

Update from March 17, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House endorsed legalizing medical marijuana, passing a bill Thursday to strictly regulate the use of cannabis for a list of eligible medical conditions.

The high-profile measure cleared the Republican-dominated House on a 59-34 vote after a long, sometimes-emotional debate. The years-long debate now shifts to the GOP-led state Senate on whether Kentucky should join the majority of states allowing medical marijuana.

Supporters said medical marijuana would ease the suffering of many Kentuckians.

Eric Crawford, a steadfast medical marijuana advocate in Kentucky, has told lawmakers that he uses medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids to deal with pain and muscle spasms from injuries he suffered in a vehicle crash more than two decades ago.

“I know real people that had their lives turned around by these products, and a lot of them are living in the closet or living in secrecy because they feel like they’re a criminal,” Democratic Rep. Al Gentry, a co-sponsor of the bill, said Thursday.

“Please, let’s pass this and allow some people to move on and live a happy life,” he added.

Opponents said they worry that Kentucky’s cannabis policy would become more lenient over the years if medical marijuana gets a legal foothold. That would worsen drug addiction woes, they said.

“The common denominator of 99.9% of the drug addiction problem in America started with marijuana,” Republican Rep. Chris Fugate said.

Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, the bill’s lead sponsor, has stressed his opposition to recreational marijuana. When the bill was heard recently in committee, Nemes said it features layers of safeguards and acknowledged it’s drafted “tighter” than he’d prefer in hopes of building support.

Under the bill, doctors could prescribe medical cannabis for a specified list of conditions that include cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, epilepsy and chronic nausea. The House amended the bill to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of approved conditions for medical marijuana.

The measure also includes “home rule” provisions. It would make medical cannabis legal statewide but county fiscal courts or commissions could vote to disallow it. However, cities in those counties would have the option to allow it.

If medical cannabis becomes legal in Kentucky, four types of related ventures would result — cannabis farmers, processors, dispensaries and safety testers. Nemes on Thursday stressed that it would be a home-state enterprise.

It would be “Kentucky grown, Kentucky processed, Kentucky tested,” he said.

The legislation is House Bill 136.


Update from March 10, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Medical marijuana advocates in Kentucky cleared an initial hurdle Thursday when a House committee advanced a bill to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

The measure won strong bipartisan support to clear the House Judiciary Committee and move on to the full House, where a similar version passed two years ago. The crucial test would come if the bill reaches the Senate. Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both chambers.

“The best part about this bill is it lets sick people get safe product,” said Republican Rep. Jason Nemes, the proposal’s lead sponsor.

Nemes said the bill features layers of safeguards, acknowledging that it’s drafted “tighter” than he’d prefer in hopes of building more support. And he stressed his opposition to recreational marijuana.

“This is not a wink, wink, nod, nod to get to recreational,” he told the committee.

The bill’s supporters said medical cannabis would ease the suffering of many Kentuckians.

If Kentucky joins the majority of states in legalizing medical marijuana, four types of related businesses would result in the Bluegrass State — farmers who grow the product, processors, dispensaries and safety testers, Nemes said.

The legislation is House Bill 136.


Original story below from February 17, 2022:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Citing polls showing a consistent majority of Kentuckians supports legalizing cannabis for responsible adult use, state Representative Rachel Roberts and state Senators Morgan McGarvey and David Yates announced Thursday they are filing identical legislation that would add Kentucky to the growing list of states where such sales are possible.

The legislation is known as L.E.T.T.’s Grow, with the acronym standing for Legalizing Sales; Expunging crimes that should never have been charged; Treating those who deserve to benefit from cannabis’ medicinal properties; and Taxing sales for those who want to buy it for adult use.

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

“It is past time to move on this,” said Sen. McGarvey of Louisville. “As 37 other states have realized the medical benefits with 18 of those reaping the economic benefits, Kentucky continues to fall behind in an area where we could be leading. It is 2022. It’s time we end the prohibition on cannabis in Kentucky.”

“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, also of Louisville.  “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. We have put too many people behind bars for this offense. Our lockups are full of them, and that is both unjust and costly.”

If enacted, their legislation would create the Cannabis Control Board, which would be composed of seven members, none of whom could have a direct or indirect interest in a cannabis business.

The board would mirror the work of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, but in this case establish and enforce regulations from seed to sale.  Helping the board would be four advisory committees focused on medicinal and adult use; cultivation; and social and economic equity.

A separate Social Impact Council would, using a portion of state proceeds, develop and administer scholarship programs and award grants to groups that have historically been marginalized or adversely affected by substance abuse.

L.E.T.T.’s Grow would apply the six percent sales tax to adult-use sales while allowing local governments to levy license fees up to five percent.  Cities and counties would be able to split that license revenue.

Under expungement, the legislation would remove cannabis-related misdemeanor convictions automatically within a year, although those affected could petition a court to act sooner.

“Our plan is both comprehensive and caring,” Rep. 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.”

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