Kentucky state Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) on Monday pre-filed bills to decriminalize cannabis possession in the state and to allow voters the opportunity to entrench broader reforms, including adult-use sales, in the state constitution, the River City News reports.
Kulkarni said she was sponsoring the bills for three reasons — the impact of the unequal enforcement of drug laws on communities of color, the medical benefits, and the potential revenue associated with the reforms. She added that “any one” of those reasons “should be enough for them to become law.”
“First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement. 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.” — Kulkarni to River City News
Were the bill to add the ballot question approved by three-fifths of the House and Senate, it would be put to voters but the timeline is unclear. If approved, the amendment would legalize use and possession by adults 21-and-older and allow the home cultivation of up to five cannabis plants. The General Assembly would create cannabis industry rules and regulations, the report says.
The decriminalization measure would remove criminal penalties for possession of personal amounts of cannabis and remove cannabis accessories from Kentucky’s drug paraphernalia statutes.
“My bills complement each other because they give the General Assembly a short-term path to act quickly and a more permanent fix that gives cannabis use the constitutional protection it deserves,” Kulkarni told the Times. “With the public’s support, I believe we can pass both next year.”
In a press release, C.J. Carter, Kentucky State Director for Minorities for Medical Marijuana, noted that the state is “at the precipice of the opening” of the state’s cannabis industry.
“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,” he said in the statement. “We now have the opportunity to write a different narrative in Kentucky that would benefit us first and foremost. 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.”
In February, Democratic state Rep. Rachel Roberts filed a similar bill to legalize cannabis and expunge low-level cannabis crimes in Kentucky. That measure would allow home cultivation, up to five mature and five immature plants, and would require home growers to pay $250 for a permit.
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