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Will Kentucky (Finally) Legalize Cannabis?

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Will Kentucky (Finally) Legalize Cannabis?

kentucky cannabis laws

Both medical and recreational cannabis are illegal in Kentucky but times may be changing for this southern state. In early 2020, House Bill 136 passed 65 to 30; this bill marked the first occasion in which a medical marijuana bill had been taken up by the full House. Proposed in the Kentucky cannabis laws bill were medical marijuana user restrictions, as well as use location prohibitions and a ban on consuming medical marijuana via smoking. HB 136 then stalled in the Senate due to the pandemic, however, sponsoring Representative, Rep. Jason Nemes has stated he will re-submit the Bill for the 2021 General Assembly.

Recreational Cannabis Possibilities

A second bill, House Bill 461, called the Responsible Cannabis Use Bill, has been filed in order to create new tax revenues through cannabis, as well as help alleviate the pains of chronic illness sufferers and allow criminal record expungement for those convicted of misdemeanor marijuana charges. Additionally, the measure would allow home cultivation of up to five mature and five immature plants for those in possession of a home grower’s permit costing $250. Under the proposal, 25% of cannabis-derived revenues would be used for addiction treatment and for social equity programs. The remainder would be deposited into the state’s general fund.


Vice President for Policy at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Allison Adams, recently said the organization is neutral regarding cannabis legislation but wants to keep the public informed of potential unintended consequences. “We at the foundation just want to make sure it’s done right if it is passed,” Adams said. “We want to make sure that packaging or the way that it’s sold protects against accidental ingestion for our youth. We want to make sure that marketing and advertising protect against youth initiation.” Right now, both bills are expected to be discussed during the remainder of 2021’s legislative session. But both bills still have a long way to go as they will need to pass both the house and senate. Further proposals include House Concurrent Resolution 5, introduced January 2021, which urges federal policymakers to expedite research regarding the safety and efficacy of the use of marijuana for medical purposes.


Cannabis Production in Kentucky

Although Kentucky cannabis laws are currently opposed, the Bluegrass State is actually the United States’ third-largest producer of marijuana. This is partially due to the abundance of dense forestland, including The Daniel Boone National Forest of over 600,000 acres. In 2003, marijuana plants numbering 206,908 were discovered and destroyed here. Although previous cannabis legislation has been introduced, such as the Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Act in 2016, they failed to gain momentum.


Kentucky’s connections to politics and cannabis were in the news recently when State Representative John Yarmuth, who serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee, purchased stocks in Canopy Growth Corporation, Aurora Cannabis and Tilray. Prior to the stock trades, Yarmuth had signed on in September as a co-sponsor to H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which decriminalized cannabis. The legislation passed the House on December 4th. A representative for Yarmuth said the Kentucky Democrat followed all House rules, noting the stock trades came after he signed on as a co-sponsor. “Congressman Yarmuth purchased the stocks after seeing four states legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the November elections. He was transparent about it and followed all House Ethics and financial disclosure rules,” he wrote in an email to the Washington Examiner.


Other Kentucky industries are involved in the cannabis realm: investigators from Harvard Medical School and the University of Kentucky have assessed the relationship between the enactment of medical-use and adult-use legalization laws and opioid prescriptions for adults (ages 18 to 64) enrolled in employee-sponsored health insurance programs. The authors reported, “[T]he implementation of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) reduced morphine milligram equivalents per enrollee by seven percent and 13 percent, respectively.” Medical cannabis access was predominantly associated with reductions in older enrollees (those ages 55 to 64), while adult-use access was predominantly associated with reductions among younger and middle-aged enrollees (those ages 35 to 54). Those who reported being in close proximity to retail marijuana sales experienced the greatest percentage decrease in opioid prescription dosages. Researchers concluded, “Our findings suggest that both MMLs and RMLs have the potential to reduce opioid prescribing in the privately insured population, especially for the middle-aged population.” The findings of the study are similar to several others.

Interested in staying abreast on Kentucky’s journey to legalization? Follow CannaCon on social media and attend the nation’s leading business-to-business cannabis conference. Our goal is to grow the cannabis industry by educating cannabis business owners on all things related to cannabis and CBD. Our trade shows, like the one in Oklahoma City May 27-28, feature exhibitors from around the country as well as seminars delivered by industry experts.

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