Kentucky Lawmaker Wants To Decriminalize Marijuana With Two Bills

A Kentucky Democrat is eying marijuana decriminalization despite past failures of marijuana bills in the state.

State Rep. Nima Kukarni of Louisville pre-filed two bills today that deal with cannabis: One, which she called a short-term solution, would vanquish criminal penalties for possessing, cultivating and selling “small amounts” of cannabis, according to a press release. The other — a “permanent fix” would allow Kentuckians to vote on a constitutional amendment that would let state residents older than 21 to possess, use, buy or sell up to one ounce of cannabis without criminal penalties and to own up to five cannabis plants for personal use.

Kulkarni, who represents District 40, said in a statement that she introduced her bills because of the damage Kentucky’s current cannabis statutes have wrought on its citizens, “especially,” she said, people of color. She also cited the number of Kentuckians who could use cannabis to deal with mental and physical pain, the revenue that could be brought in by cannabis decriminalization and the popularity of such a measure as reasons for her legislation. 

“With the public’s support, I believe we can pass both next year,” said Kulkarni.

But, Kentucky legislators have had little success in the past with medical marijuana legalization, let alone decriminalization of cannabis for everyone. 

Last year, a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana passed in the House but wasn’t considered in the Senate. Republican state Rep. James Nemes has told the Courier Journal that he is working on a new medical marijuana bill this year — one that would be quite restrictive, only allowing medical marijuana use for a limited number of maladies. Nemes said his bill has a better chance now than ever, but it is still not guaranteed to pass. 

Progressive Kentucky Democrats have introduced their own legalization and decriminalization bills alongside medical marijuana legislation. Their efforts have had even less success. 

Kulkarni’s constitutional amendment bill would also require more support than a typical bill: three-fifths of the House and Senate voting yes. 

But, Kulkarni thinks a decriminalization bill can pass alongside a medical marijuana bill. She supports medical marijuana legalization, too, and plans to be a co-sponsor on Nemes’ bill. 

Kulkarni’s bills also  have the support of the ACLU of Kentucky and the American for Prosperity-Kentucky.

Kentucky is lagging behind others in terms of cannabis laws. Thirty-six have legalized medical marijuana and 27 have either fully or partially legalized cannabis, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

 “We’re in a shrinking minority of states that have no consideration for the use of cannabis at all, whether for medical, whether it’s just decriminalization or whether it’s full comprehensive legalization,” said Kulkarni. “We don’t have anything on the books. And so we need to have those conversations because we’re just falling further and further behind at this point.”

Kulkarni’s short-term bill would decriminalize handling marijuana as long as it was one ounce or less in plant form, five grams or less of resin or concentrate or 1,000 milligrams or less of other Delta 9 and Delta 8 cannabis products. Kentuckians would be allowed to own five or fewer plants of cannabis, too. 

If passed, Kulkarni’s constitutional amendment bill would be on the ballot next November. Now, wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas present for Kentuckians. 

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