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Louisville Rep. Nima Kulkarni pre-files two bills aimed at decriminalizing personal use of marijuana

Looking to add Kentucky to the growing list of states that have authorized adult use of cannabis, state Rep. Nima Kulkarni pre-filed legislation on Monday that would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts and give voters a chance to protect those provisions constitutionally. Numerous organizations have signed on in support.

“I am sponsoring these bills for several reasons, any one of which should be enough for them to become law,” said Rep. Kulkarni of Louisville. “First, current cannabis statutes have needlessly and tragically ruined many lives, especially people of color who have suffered because of unequal enforcement. Second, thousands of citizens, from cancer patients to veterans suffering from PTSD, should have the right to use something that gives them the mental and physical relief they deserve without relying on stronger, potentially addictive medicine. Third, cannabis de-criminalization would give the state a much-needed source of reliable revenue without raising current taxes a single cent. And, finally, polls have repeatedly shown a majority of Kentuckians backs de-criminalization and allowing cannabis to be used responsibly by adults. Other states taking this step are reaping considerable benefits, and it’s time for Kentucky to join them.”

Rep. Nima Kulkarni

Her constitutional amendment would go before voters next November if approved by three-fifths of the House and Senate during the upcoming 2022 legislative session. It would let Kentuckians 21 and older possess, use, buy or sell up to one ounce of cannabis without criminal penalty, including having up to five plants for personal use. The General Assembly would be tasked with regulating how cannabis is grown, taxed and sold.

Her second bill would have the legislature itself take away criminal penalties for possessing, cultivating and/or selling small amounts of cannabis while maintaining penalties for possessing larger amounts. The bill also would remove cannabis accessories from Kentucky’s drug-paraphernalia statutes.

“My bills complement each other because they give the General Assembly a short-term path to act quickly and a more permanent fix that gives cannabis use the constitutional protection it deserves,” Rep. Kulkarni said. “With the public’s support, I believe we can pass both next year.”

Kulkarni’s bills have the support of a variety of organizations, including the ACLU of Kentucky, which said in a statement although the individual organizations have different missions in supporting the legislation, they’re united in the cause for decriminalization.

“Because of outdated and ill-enforced laws, thousands of Kentuckians have lost time and opportunities due to criminal convictions, and thousands more have suffered needlessly because Kentucky blocks cannabis’ medicinal use,” the ACLU statement read. “It is past time for the Commonwealth to join the 36 other states that have removed most if not all of these barriers.”

Mike Conway, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Kentucky, applauded Kulkarni’s efforts citing the policies have criminalized marijuana’s use and possession.

“Criminal enforcement of marijuana possession has unnecessarily brought thousands of Kentuckians into the criminal justice system while diverting law enforcement resources away from public safety priorities such as violent crime reduction,” he said.

C.J. Carter, Kentucky State Director for Minorities for Medical Marijuana, said the state is at the precipice of the opening of a lucrative cannabis industry, and its prohibition has disproportionately targeted people of color.

Kentucky’s Official State Chapter for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition also issued statements in support of the legislation.

From Legislative Research Commission

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