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Cannabis legislation in KYGA23 – where it stands

Will this be the year that medical marijuana is finally legalized in Kentucky?

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Photo by Wesley Gibbs / Unsplash

For years, various groups and legislators have tried to get both medical and recreational marijuana legalized in the Kentucky General Assembly. Each year, the effort makes a little more headway. Where does this effort stand this year, as we wait for the session to resume in February?

As of Jan 15, 2023, there are four bills filed in this year’s General Assembly pertaining to cannabis. All four bills were filed by Democrats and, when the session resumes on February 7th, there will likely be an additional bill filed by Rep. Jason Nemes (R-33) in the House.

In my opinion, none of the Democratic-sponsored bills in the House will be heard, nor even assigned to a committee. (The House does not automatically assign bills to a committee upon introduction).

In the Senate, all bills get assigned to a committee, but the decision for that bill to be heard in committee is up to the chairperson of the committee. (And of course, since both chambers are in control of the Republican majorities, all committee chairs are Republican.) If any bill about cannabis moves forward, it will likely be one filed by a Republican, so the Republicans in the legislature can take credit for “listening” to the people of Kentucky, who overwhelmingly favor legalization.

The bills to date

There are currently three bills in the House. They include:

  • HB 48, filed by Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D-40) calls for a Constitutional Amendment to be placed on the ballot for voters to decide: “Are you in favor of amending the present Constitution of Kentucky to add a new section of the Constitution of Kentucky to allow individuals twenty-one years of age or older to possess, use, buy, or sell one ounce or less of cannabis and to cultivate, harvest, or store up to five cannabis plants for personal use, and to allow the production, processing, and sale of cannabis to be regulated and controlled by the General Assembly?”  This bill has not been assigned to a committee.
  • HB 22, filed by Rep. Rachel Roberts (D-67) is an omnibus (comprehensive) bill to legalize cannabis and establish a new Department of Cannabis Control within the Public Protection Cabinet. It includes provisions for expungement for prior offenses, production, sale and taxation. It also includes the formation of a “Cannabis Fund,” a Social Impact Council, and a Cannabis Control Board. This bill has not been assigned to a committee.
  • HB 107 was filed by the House Democratic leadership team: Derrick Graham, D-57; Cherlynn Stevenson, D-88; and Rachel Roberts, D67. It fills out the medical marijuana program as outlined by Gov. Beshear in his State of the Commonwealth address.

    It would establish a Medical Cannabis Program, exempted from sales and excise taxes. It would create the Division of Medicinal Cannabis and the Division of Alcohol and Cannabis Enforcement. It calls for the creation of the Division of Medicinal Cannabis and the Division of Alcohol and Cannabis Enforcement. An appropriation to fund the work is requested, and parts of the bill would go into effect July 1, 2023. This bill has not been assigned to a committee, and it is doubtful the Republicans would want to help Beshear’s reelection bid by moving “his bill” forward.

There is currently one bill in the Senate:

  • SB 51, filed by Sen. David Yates (D-37), is identical to the omnibus bill filed by Rep. Roberts in the House. Given President Stivers’s prior history of opposition to legalization of cannabis, it is highly unlikely this bill will ever be heard in committee. It was just introduced on Friday, January 6th right before adjournment, and has not been assigned to a committee yet.

Two things to watch for once the legislature comes back into session:

  • Whether any of the Democratic-sponsored bills move at all, or gain Republican sponsors
  • Whether Rep. Nemes files a bill, and how many sponsors it attracts

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Written by Joanie Prentice, an activist and close follower of the General Assembly.



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