Democratic lawmakers in Kentucky are taking a three-tiered approach to cannabis legalization during the 2023 legislative session, including legislation, executive action, and a proposed constitutional amendment, LinkNKY reports. The push follows an executive order last year from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, which took effect January 1.
On the first day of session, Rep. Rachel Roberts (D) filed a near duplicate of the bill she filed last year which aims to fully legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. The measure, L.E.T.T.’s Grow Cannabis, would legalize sales, expunge low-level possession crimes, allow medical cannabis sales and use, and tax sales.
Roberts told LinkNKY that including a swath of reforms in one bill may “be best” for lawmakers “and then to break that into other bills that may be more digestible at moments in time.”
“…That could be the building blocks that get us to that ultimate goal,” she said, which she described as “seed to sale.”
“We are still incarcerating people in Kentucky for low-level cannabis offenses, including reincarcerating people for parole violations. So this is an economic issue for us. It’s a criminal justice issue for us.” — Roberts to LinkNKY
The proposal from Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) would decriminalize personal use possession via a 2024 constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment would appear on ballots as: “Do you want to decriminalize possession of cannabis up to an ounce and cultivation of five plants for adults 21 and over in the Commonwealth?”
“I do not want to have the legalization conversation without full decriminalization measures,” Kulkarni said in the report.
Beshear’s 2022 executive order did not legalize medical cannabis sales, but rather provides protections for Kentuckians with a medical provider’s statement to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis for medical purposes if purchased legally in another state. Beshear has admitted that the system doesn’t “make it convenient for anyone” but it was his response to the state Senate twice refusing to act on House-passed medical cannabis legislation.
“What it will ensure is that they’re not a criminal,” Beshear told Kentucky Health News earlier this month. “I don’t want them to have to drive to Illinois, but that takes an act of the legislature. I want our people to be able to get it close to home.”
During the first day of the session, Senate President Robert Stivers (R) told LinkNKY that while he is not opposed to medical cannabis, the reforms need to be accomplished in an appropriate way – through additional research. He added that it would come to the chamber for a vote “if there are the votes in the caucus.”
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