Will Kentucky Be Next to Legalize Medical Marijuana?

Lori Ann Reese

Posted by Lori Ann Reese on 12/05/2021 in Cannabis Laws

Kentucky Marijuana Laws

In 2022, a lot could be changing in the cannabis legal landscape.  The midterm elections alone in November could mean some shifts in political leadership.  In some states, that could also mean an end to legislative roadblocks between patients and cannabis reform.  It may provide an opportunity to move the dial to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky.

In February 2020, the House of Representatives in Kentucky passed HB 136.  The vote to legalize medical cannabis was overwhelmingly supported.  But just as HB 136 was passed and moved to the Kentucky Senate, the Covid-19 health emergency started.  And cannabis legalization got bumped to the bottom of the pile of priorities. 

It took years to get HB 136 to the House of Representatives.  Patients and cannabis advocacy groups were disappointed to see it fall through after House approval. The cannabis bill, according to Marijuana Policy Project, was the first time in history the entire house was present to vote on an issue. 

Failing to pass before the Senate adjourned in April was more than a disappointment. It meant that the legislation would have to be refiled and go through all steps from the start.  Representative Jason Nemes and other supporters tried to reintroduce it without success. Despite support in the Kentucky House, it met opposition in the Senate. 

And that left patients in Kentucky wondering when (if ever) medical marijuana was going to be legalized in the state.  According to the national non-profit advocacy group “Fight Chronic Disease,” there are 2.9 million Kentuckians with at least one debilitating condition.  And another 1.3 million patients in Kentucky with two or more chronic diseases. 

The Effort to Put Medical Cannabis on the Ballot for Kentucky Voters 

What do you do when you have the support of the House of Representatives and a seemingly impenetrable blockade in the Senate? You try to put the question of cannabis legalization where it belongs, in the hands of residents and voters. 

That’s exactly what voters can expect if the ballot measure goes through. Marijuana Moment reported that Rep. Nima Kulkarni is attacking the hurdle to legalize medical marijuana on two fronts.  The new bill will ask the Kentucky legislature to adopt the legalization of medical marijuana as a statutory measure.  And the second part would make adult-use legalization a constitutional amendment that voters could decide on. 

Under the new proposed legislation sponsored by Rep. Kulkarni, adult-use cannabis would be legal for residents twenty-one (21) years or older.  The recreational laws would allow the purchase and possession of up to one (1) ounce of cannabis.  And it would also permit adults to cultivate up to five cannabis plants at home for personal use. 

Another part of the pre-filed cannabis reform bills addresses expungement.  Or removal of criminal records for individuals charged or convicted of possession of small amounts.  Expungement for personal use, however, would not apply to charges involving guns, violent crime, distribution, manufacturing, or other crimes. 

Personal-use cannabis charges would be dropped and reduced to a fine in some cases. But there is a part of the legislation that may lead to opposition.  Sale or possession of paraphernalia would not be a crime.  

Kentucky recreational weed

Where the Proposed Constitutional Amendment In Kentucky May Run Into Problems

The cultivation and sale of cannabis would be excluded from criminal punishment. Something that will have to be carefully worded to protect licensed retailers and growers.  While not impacting penalties for unauthorized cultivation, sale, or distribution.  Particularly since the adult-use laws propose allowing people to grow cannabis at home. 

According to Marijuana Moment, any kind of regulatory structure is missing in the proposed legislation.  Legalizing cannabis could be a good thing for patients and the state.  But may experience difficulty passing if a method of regulation of the new cannabis industry is not clearly defined, including the licensing of growers and dispensaries. 

The fight to put medical marijuana and adult-use in Kentucky on the ballot for 2022 has officially begun.  And many feel that the legalization of medical cannabis is possible.  But adult-use legalization in Kentucky may still be a long shot. 


Images: Canva

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