Democratic lawmakers in Kentucky on Thursday filed legislation to legalize cannabis for adults in the state and tax sales, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. The bill, however, is likely a longshot in the Republican-controlled General Assembly which over the past decade has failed to pass bi-partisan medical cannabis reforms.
The bill is sponsored in the House by state Rep. Rachel Roberts and in the Senate by state Sens. Morgan McGarvey and David Yates. It also includes provisions to automatically expunge cannabis-related misdemeanor charges within one year.
“While cannabis will not be a panacea for all that ails the state, Kentucky stands to gain up to $100 million a year if our sales near those of our neighbors in Michigan and Illinois – but not if we keep letting neighboring states beat us to the punch.” – Roberts, during a press conference, via the Courier Journal
The measure includes a tax rate of up to 11%, including the state’s 6% sales tax and an optional 5% local tax.
The proposal would create a seven-member Cannabis Control Board that would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. It would also create a 19-member Social Impact Council which would use a portion of state proceeds for scholarships and grants to those that have been subject to “historical overuse of criminal justice responses,” the report says. In 2018, the state reported 7,600 cannabis-related arrests, Roberts said, while a 2020 American Civil Liberties Union report found Black Kentuckians were 9.4 times more likely than white Kentuckians to be arrested for cannabis possession; the national rate of cannabis arrest disparities among Black people and white people is 3.64 times.
McGarvey told the Courier-Journal that he believes there will be bipartisan support for the reforms.
“I think you’d be surprised how many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, all across the state, are coming up in the hallways and in the chamber saying ‘it’s time we do something to legalize marijuana in Kentucky,'” he said in the report.
The House did pass a medical cannabis bill in 2020 but it was not taken up by the Senate. Another medical cannabis bill introduced by Republican Rep. Jason Nemes this session has not been assigned to a committee.
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