Kentucky State Representative Nima Kulkarni is already looking ahead and working toward the 2022 Legislative Session. Kulkarni has pre-filed two bills that would decriminalize and legalize adult use of cannabis.
Specifically, her first bill would allow adults 21 and older to purchase, sell, or possess up to an ounce of cannabis and allow ownership of up to five plants for personal use. The General Assembly would regulate how cannabis is grown, taxed, and sold.
Her second bill would have the legislature remove criminal penalties for small amounts of cannabis while maintaining penalties for possessing more significant amounts. The measure would also remove marijuana accessories from Kentucky’s drug-paraphernalia statutes.
“I am sponsoring these bills for several reasons. First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement. Second, thousands of citizens, from cancer patients to veterans who have PTSD, should have the right to use something that gives them the mental and physical relief they deserve without relying on stronger, potentially addictive medicine,” Kulkarni said. “Third, cannabis decriminalization would give the state a much-needed source of reliable revenue without raising current taxes a single cent. And, finally, polls have repeatedly shown a majority of Kentuckians backs decriminalization and allowing cannabis to be used responsibly by adults. Other states taking this step are reaping considerable benefits, and it’s time for Kentucky to join them.”
The proposals will go before Kentucky voters in November 2022 if three-fifths of the House and Senate approve the measures during the state’s upcoming 2022 legislative session.
A variety of organizations support Kulkarni’s bills. The ACLU of Kentucky said in a statement that despite individual organizations having different agendas in supporting the legislation, they’re united in the cause for decriminalization. The ACLU believes it’s time for Kentucky to “join the 36 other states that have removed most if not all of these barriers.”
“Because of outdated and ill-enforced laws, thousands of Kentuckians have lost time and opportunities due to criminal convictions, and thousands more have suffered needlessly because Kentucky blocks cannabis’ medicinal use,” the ACLU statement read.
“Criminal enforcement of marijuana possession has unnecessarily brought thousands of Kentuckians into the criminal justice system while diverting law enforcement resources away from public safety priorities such as violent crime reduction,” said Mike Conway, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Kentucky.
Kulkarni believes her bills are a more permanent fix that gives cannabis use constitutional protection. She’s confident that her proposals provide the General Assembly a short-term path to act quickly.
Many advocates believe Kentucky is at the threshold of opening a lucrative cannabis industry and taking steps to correct the injustices directed disproportionately at people of color.