State Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, is touting a Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, which shows broad support for industrial hemp and medical marijuana.
The survey finds 65 percent of Kentuckians support hemp and 60 percent favor using the drug for prescription use. Clark filed a measure dubbed the “Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act” that would move cannabis to the list of prescription drugs to treat illnesses.
Supporters rallied for the proposal earlier this year, but it faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Clark says he hopes fellow state lawmakers are paying attention to national trends and the shift in public opinion among Kentuckians.
“Clearly we’re forming a cannabis majority in this nation. You know 19 states have legalized medicinal marijuana, at least two states have gone total recreational and eight other states have passed industrial hemp,” he says. “It’s time for us to think forward and realize this is not the top problem that we’re having in Kentucky.”
Poll numbers show 39 percent of voters support legalization for recreational use, but 49 percent still oppose that idea. And despite the new survey information, both hemp and medical marijuana face stiff opposition in the state legislature.
The legislation to create a hemp industry in the state easily cleared the Senate, but House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said his chamber wants to conduct more studies.
And State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, who is chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Courier-Journal’s Gregory Hall he had “no inclination” to even hear Clark’s medical marijuana bill this session.
“We’re asking for a shift in policy,” says Clark. “If you allow the medicinal, (and) if allow the industrial you won’t have to put 500 people in jail at a cost of $25,000 a piece. And if you tax the $800 million (marijuana trade) let’s say at a conservative 25 percent you add $200 million into your general fund, which we could desperately use in Kentucky.”
Clark says he has spoken with Westerfield, and the “education process” will continue with the hopes of a committee hearing this year.