Sen. Perry Clark has introduced two bills that would overhaul marijuana policies in Kentucky. SB 57 would make medical marijuana legal for seriously ill Kentuckians, and SB 72 would legalize marijuana for adult use and create a regulated and taxed system.
SB 57 would protect qualifying patients from arrest and allow them to cultivate marijuana plants. It would also allow them to obtain medical marijuana from dispensaries, which would be regulated by the state.
SB 72 would take Kentucky in the direction of the eight states that have voted to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. This would divert millions of dollars away from the illicit drug market and into the hands of Kentucky businesses that would be regulated and taxed by the state. Unfortunately, legislators are not likely to take this bill as seriously in 2017, so we believe it may be best to focus email advocacy in support of the medical marijuana bill until the political landscape changes.
The Kentucky Legislature reconvened last week for the 2017-18 session, and Sen. Perry Clark has already prefiled two bills that would reform marijuana laws in the Commonwealth. One bill would end Kentucky’s criminalization of adult marijuana consumers, instead taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol. Another bill would permit seriously ill Kentuckians — both adults and minors — to access medical marijuana.
Effective medical marijuana programs have been created in 28 states, and Kentucky patients should have the same access. Meanwhile, legalizing marijuana for adult use would allow the state to generate tax revenue from adult marijuana sales while providing the tools needed to adequately regulate the production and sale of marijuana.
Under current laws, possession of less than eight ounces of marijuana is punishable by 45 days in jail and a $250 fine. There is a narrow medical exception for patients with intractable seizures, but the marijuana must be provided by a physician, which would be a violation of federal law.
The Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday at 12:00 p.m. ET on a bill that would allow people suffering from conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), and HIV/AIDS to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
HB 350, known as the Cannabis Compassion Act, introduced on February 10 by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville), a registered nurse, was the first effective medical marijuana bill ever introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives. It would allow licensed patients and caregivers to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. It would also establish safety compliance facilities and permit one medical marijuana compassion center for every 100,000 state residents. Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville) introduced a similar measure, SB 43, earlier this year.
Nearly 80% of Kentucky adults think people with serious illnesses should be allowed to access and use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctors recommend it, according to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll released in May 2013.
According the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll, 78% of Kentuckians support the legalization of medical marijuana, and 25% say they would be okay with regulating recreational use as well. Only 38% oppose any form of legalization.
Proponents were split when it came to legislative action. Almost half thought the decision should be left up to voters, 23% thought state legislators should change the law, and another 23% believed ending prohibition was the job of the federal government.
Citizens of Kentucky will be happy to know that State Senator Perry Clark (D-Louisville) has been tireless in his push to introduce medical marijuana legislation; unfortunately, his bill has yet to receive a hearing.
Let’s hope more Kentucky lawmakers start listening to the people they claim to represent.
A Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll conducted last week found that 60% of registered Kentucky voters support making marijuana legal for medical use. Only 31% were opposed. A bill to make medical marijuana legal for certain qualifying conditions and ensure safe access for patients, S.B. 11, was introduced this session by Sen. Perry Clark.
In addition, 65% of those polled support making production of industrial hemp legal in the state. There is also a bill being considered that would allow farmers in Kentucky to cultivate hemp and take advantage of this versatile agricultural commodity.