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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Three Kentucky Democrats, including a senior party official in the state Senate, unveiled sweeping bills to end the cannabis ban by legalizing sales to adults over 21, creating a medical marijuana program for registered patients and erasing past beliefs that sponsors say wasn’t It should never be. Charged in the first place.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, Senator David Yates and Representative Rachel Roberts introduced the 74-page legislation Thursday. A Republican-led rival proposal was introduced in January It would only legalize medical cannabis.

Democratic sponsors of the new bills said at a news conference that their plan would allow the state to catch up with 37 others already allowing patients access to medical marijuana, creating a new source of income for state and local governments and law enforcement for free. To focus on the most serious crimes.

“Our legislation is the comprehensive plan the Kentuckians deserve, and it builds on what has worked in other states while avoiding their mistakes,” Roberts said.

“Kentucky continues to lag behind in an area where we can get ahead,” McGarvey said. “It’s 2022. It’s time to end the cannabis ban in Kentucky.”

Legislation-SB 186 in the Senate and 521 in the House – Call it LETT’s Grow, an acronym built from the main components of billing: legalization of sales, deletion of crimes, treatment through medical use and taxation of adult use sales.

It will also work to expand funding for drug use disorder treatment and allocate a portion of state proceeds to scholarship and grant programs for groups that have been disproportionately affected by the drug war.

The Democrats, who have a minority of seats in both houses, said at the start of this year’s session Certification will be a top priority for 2022describing the long-awaited policy change and noting that cannabis reform has bipartisan support among state voters — a point echoed by sponsors of the new bill Thursday.

A poll published in 2020 showed that nine out of 10 Kentucky residents support medical marijuana legalizationand nearly 60 percent say cannabis should be legal under “any circumstances”.

Kentucky is already a competitive cannabis producer, harvesting about 1,500 acres of the crop last year, according to a New federal study for the cannabis industry—more than all other US states except eight.

If passed, the new bill would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in public and up to 12 ounces in private. Sharing up to an ounce of cannabis between adults or patients would also be legal. People who are legally allowed to own and use cannabis can grow their plants at home, with up to 10 mature marijuana plants per person.

Medicinal use is permitted for any medical condition “the authorized practitioner believes that the cardholder may receive a therapeutic or palliative benefit from the use of medicinal cannabis.”

“Our plan is comprehensive and interested,” Roberts said of the new Democrats’ bill. “It helps patients. It gives a second chance to those who shouldn’t have been charged and will put Kentucky overnight in a multibillion dollar business.”

The competing Republican medical cannabis measure is much more restrictive. Under this proposal, patients would need one of several specific eligible conditions, although regulators could add more. The cultivation and smoking of cannabis at home will also remain illegal for patients. No adult use will ever be permitted.

While the state’s governor, Andy Bashir, is a Democrat, his initial reaction to the legislation on Thursday sounded more in line with Republicans. He told reporters at a press conference that he supported medical cannabis, but did not comment on adult use.

Late last year, Bashir said “it’s about time we join many other states to do the right thing” and added that Kentucky farmers would be well positioned to Cultivation and sale of hemp to other countries.

The new plan from Democratic lawmakers’ plan leaves many of the program details to regulators, including dose and potency limits, total THC content and packaging.

Oversight of the new industry — and setting rules not only about business conduct but also about possession and use — would be seven members of the Cannabis Oversight Board. The council will license cannabis growers, processors, manufacturers, testing laboratories, retail stores, special events, social consumption spaces, transporters and any other category deemed necessary by regulators. A separate category of licenses will be created for so-called small businesses.

The new bill would also create four stand-alone advisory committees to advise the board on adult use, medical cannabis, and agriculture, as well as social and economic justice.

Sales of cannabis to adults will be taxed at 6 percent statewide, with municipalities able to add fees of up to 5 percent combined between local jurisdictions. Generally, sales tax will not be more than 11 percent, which is lower than most other legal states.

All products must carry an advisory label and include essential details including ingredients, additives, net weight, expiration or use date, and “labels that distinguish between medicinal cannabis products and adult cannabis products.” Moreover, all packaging must be opaque.

The bill would also prevent employers or professional organizations from discriminating against people who use cannabis outside of work provided that it does not affect their work performance or endanger their safety. Smoking marijuana in public will still be illegal but will be punishable by a maximum fine of $100.

Anyone who has ever been convicted of a misdemeanor for possession, delivery or manufacture of cannabis or cannabis-related paraphernalia can petition the court to strike them off. The process will take place automatically after a year, although people can petition the court to strike out early.

Yates said that people convicted of cannabis “should not be burdened with a criminal record, life sentences and the stigma attached to it.” “We have put a lot of people behind bars for this crime. Our lockout places are full of them, and it is unfair and expensive.”

Nearly 7,600 Kentuckians, disproportionately black and young, were arrested in the state in 2018 on cannabis charges, the senator said, noting that most of the arrests were for possession.

Meanwhile, McGarvey posted a series of videos on TikTok that humorously express frustration with Kentucky’s lack of progress on marijuana while other states enact reforms.

New bills face a difficult path in the Republican-controlled legislature. On the other side of the aisle, even longtime medical cannabis advocate Jason Nimes (right) added restrictions on previous versions of his legislation to make the new bill more attractive to state governors.

Nemes introduced in 2020 a medical legalization bill Well passed the house But he later died in the Senate amid the early coronavirus pandemic. he is Re-legislate for the 2021 session, but it did not progress.

In recent months, ferrets have been Work on building support For a new mini version of the medical marijuana bill, in October he said he was confident it could pass if only legislative leaders had “the guts” to allow it to be voted on.

The narrow approach was designed to win support among Republican leaders in the state Senate, who killed off earlier versions of Nimes’ proposal. Senate floor leader Damon Thayer (right), for example, is steadfastly opposed to change, having warned that it is a fast track to full legalization.

Thayer, who owns a whiskey distillery, He said during a TV session earlier this year. “But this is a republic, and they elect us to go to Frankfurt and make decisions for them – and if they don’t like it, they can take it out of me at the next election.”

Still others are cautious, such as Pro Tempor House Speaker David Meade (right), who said at the hearing that he remained “on the fence” on medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, another Democrat, Representative Nima Kulkarni, introduced separate legislation late last year. Legalization of Possession, Limited Sales and Home Growing of Marijuana.

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