While Kentucky has been a major force behind industrial hemp, the state still hasn’t passed legislation concerning cannabis. Could that change in 2020? The majority of Kentuckians think it should. And many people “in the know” believe we could see legal weed in Kentucky this year.
Populism and Cannabis Reform
Over 80% of Kentucky residents currently believe the sate should have a legal Medical cannabis program. A figure less than that, but still accounting for the majority of Kentuckians, supports recreational adult use. But, with public support at an all time high, (*wink wink*) there is still considerable work to be done in order to pass any current legislation.
House Bill 136
First introduced just one year ago, Kentucky HB 136 gained significant ground in 2019. State Rep. Jason Nemes is confident the bill will go further in 2020, as the bill’s primary co-sponsor. In March of last year, the bill passed, 16-1, in the KY House Judiciary Committee. The bill is slated for the legislative agenda in 2020, where it could go to a House vote. Nemes has expressed that he will have enough votes there to get it to the upper chamber. If successful, the bill would then head to newly elected Governor Andy Beshear. Gov. Beshear has expressed support of legal weed in Kentucky, throughout his campaign in 2019.
Want to help?
Calling your state Representatives is a great first step in having your voice heard. But if you would like to go a step further, there are many advocacy groups that would love your help. Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana will be hosting Cannabis Advocacy events on January 22 & 23 at the Capitol Annex in Frankfort, KY. The KY branch of NORML has regular meetings and events. We suggest following them on social media for updates. At the time of this article, none were scheduled.
Legal Weed in Kentucky vs Legal Weed in Illinois
As Illinois recently began selling legal adult use recreational cannabis, it’s worth noting that a program in Kentucky could look much different. It bears repeating that HB 136 would only legalize medical use, if passed. Revenue is another potential difference between the two programs. Illinois is expected to make somewhere in the ballpark of $368M in tax revenue in the first year of recreational sales. However, Rep. Nemes doesn’t think KY should tax medical cannabis on a retail level, due to his moral concerns regarding profiting from the poor or sick.
Another KY State Representative has pre-filed a Recreational Cannabis bill for the 2020 legislative session, though. Democratic Rep. Cluster Howard estimates his bill could create up to $800 million of annual revenue. Of that revenue, 25% would likely be provided to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System. His bill would also decriminalize possession of less than one ounce, and contains provisions concerning criminal justice reforms, as well as permits for growing at home for personal use. Many think this bill is a long shot, but if passed, it would create a program more similar to Illinois’ new laws.