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While one Louisville lawmaker plans to introduce legislation during the 2022 General Assembly to allow medical marijuana in Kentucky, another one is proposing legislation to legalize it for recreational use.

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, has sponsored medical marijuana bills in the past, one of which won easy House approval in 2020 on a 65-30 vote, although it was not acted upon in the Senate.

Now, Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, looks to add Kentucky to the growing list of states that has authorized adult use of cannabis. Her bill would remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts.

Kulkarni said she is sponsoring the legislation for several reasons.

“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.”

The constitutional amendment proposed by Kulkarni would go before voters next November, if approved by three-fifths of the House and Senate during the upcoming 2022 legislative session. The legislation 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.

The second bill proposed by Kulkarni 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. This 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,” Kulkarni said. “With the public’s support, I believe we can pass both next year.”

Nemes, when asked if he supports Kulkarni’s proposals, said he will concentrate on getting his medical marijuana bill through the General Assembly, and he does not support the drug’s recreational use.

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