“It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis," says bill sponsor Perry B. Clark
FRANKFORT, KY — In preparation for the upcoming 2016 legislative session, a Kentucky state senator has pre-filed a bill that would legalize marijuana in the Bluegrass State for adults 21 and older.
Kentucky State Senator Perry B. Clark (D-Louisville), a longtime proponent of marijuana law reform, announced Friday that he has pre-filed the Cannabis Freedom Act for consideration when lawmakers convene in January.
“Too many Kentuckians have had their lives stymied with criminal records as a result of nonviolent marijuana convictions. That is wrong,” Clark says. “It is time to stop making criminals out of citizens due to outdated and ridiculous laws concerning cannabis.”
The bill would replace Kentucky’s current laws banning the possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis with a regulatory framework designed to promote public safety and responsible marijuana consumption by adults 21 and older.
“It is abundantly clear to me that cannabis, while being much less harmful, should be treated the same as alcohol,” Clark said in a statement Friday. “The Cannabis Freedom Act is an outline on how to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older in Kentucky. It is time for this discussion in our Commonwealth.”
If passed, Clark’s proposal would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to five cannabis plants for personal use.
Retail sales would be regulated three-tier licensing system which separates cannabis cultivators, processors and retailers independently to “prevent monopolization and vertical integration,” Clark says.
Tax revenue from legal cannabis sales would benefit Kentucky’s public schools and provide scholarships to Kentucky students enrolled in state colleges and universities. Revenue would also be used to fund “evidence-based substance abuse treatment programs, provide grants to local law enforcement agencies to purchase protective equipment and would provide additional revenue to the general fund,” according to the press release.
Under Clark’s proposal, public consumption of marijuana would remain illegal, with those caught smoking marijuana in public subject to a $100 fine. The bill would maximize penalties for unlawful possession of marijuana at $250 and a $500 fine for illegal growing marijuana on a property without the property owner’s permission.
“This is a common sense proposal that moves Kentucky positively forward,” Clark added.
Under current Kentucky law, possession of up to eight ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $250 and up to 45 days in jail. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), approximately 7,000 arrests are made each year in Kentucky for minor marijuana possession offenses.
Last year, Sen. Clark introduced legislation that would have made the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana a civil violation, punishable by a fine of no more than $75. The bill failed to advance during the short 30-day session. In even numbered years, Kentucky’s legislative session last 60 days.
Kentucky’s 2016 legislative session begins January 5.