Politics

A state senator from Louisville wants to legalize marijuana in Kentucky, but a key committee chair says the bill likely won’t get an opportunity to advance in the upcoming General Assembly session.

The “Cannabis Freedom Act” creates a regulatory framework to grow, distribute and consume marijuana in the state.

State Sen. Perry Clark, a Louisville Democrat, said it is “abundantly clear” that cannabis should be legalized and treated the same as alcohol.

“Too many Kentuckians have had their lives stymied with criminal records as a result of nonviolent marijuana convictions. That is wrong,” Clark said. “It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis.”

Clark has proposed legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in past legislative sessions, but the efforts have found little traction in the Republican-led Senate.

Clark’s bill would allow for marijuana cultivation, possession and sale. Consumption would be prohibited by people under 21. People would be able to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to five plants. Smoking in public would still be prohibited and carry a $100 fine.

The regulatory system would mirror that of Kentucky’s alcohol laws: Production and sale would be split into licenses for growers, distributors and retailers.

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville, said it’s unlikely that he would hear Clark’s bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.

“I’ve seen the cases, I have prosecuted the cases where a death has occurred because someone was operating a vehicle under the influence of pot and killed somebody,” Westerfield said. “I don’t ever see me being in favor of recreational legalization.”

Westerfield has declined to take up bills that legalize marijuana for medicinal use in past legislative sessions. It’s unlikely he would do so this year, though he said he would read the bills first.

During his campaign, Gov. Matt Bevin said he would be in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, but was opposed to marijuana being used for recreational purposes.

Clark said taxes generated from sales would go toward education funding, substance abuse treatment programs and local law enforcement agencies. Additional revenue would go into the state’s general fund.

“The savings and revenue increases in Kentucky would be enough to offset needed raises for our state troopers, correction officers and parole officers,” Clark said.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.