Marijuana legalization bill heads to Delaware house floor after second committee approval

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Three Kentucky Democrats, including a senior party official in the state Senate, unveiled sweeping bills to end cannabis prohibition by legalizing sales to adults over 21, establishing a program of medical marijuana for registered patients and overturning prior convictions that the sponsors say should never have been charged in the first place.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, Sen. David Yates and Rep. Rachel Roberts introduced the 74-page legislation on Thursday. A competing Republican-led proposal filed in January would only legalize medical cannabis.

The Democratic sponsors of the new bills told a press conference that their plan would allow the state to catch up with the other 37 that already allow patients access to medical marijuana, establish a new source of revenues for state and local governments and to enforce the law free of charge. focus on the most serious crimes.

“Our legislation is the comprehensive plan Kentuckians deserve, and it builds on what has worked in other states while avoiding their mistakes,” Roberts said.

“Kentucky continues to fall behind in an area where we could be leading,” McGarvey said. “It’s 2022. It’s time to end Kentucky’s cannabis prohibition.”

The legislation-SB 186 in the Senate and HB 521 in the House – is dubbed LETT’s Grow, an acronym made up of the main elements of the bills: legalization of sales, suppression of crimes, treatment by medical use and taxation of sales for adult use.

It would also increase funding for treatment of substance use disorders and direct a portion of state revenue to scholarship programs and grants to groups that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

Democrats, who hold a minority of seats in both houses, said at the start of this year’s session that legalization would be a top priority for 2022, calling the change a long-standing policy and noting that cannabis reform benefits bipartisan support among state voters. a point sponsors of the new bill echoed Thursday.

A poll released in 2020 found that nine out of 10 Kentucky residents support the legalization of medical marijuana, and nearly 60% say cannabis should be legal under “all circumstances.”

Kentucky is already a competitive hemp grower, harvesting about 1,500 acres of the crop last year, according to a new federal study of the hemp industry, more than all but eight other U.S. states.

If passed, the new bill would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in public and up to 12 ounces in a private space. Sharing up to one ounce of cannabis between adults or patients would also be legal. People legally permitted to possess and use cannabis could also grow their own at home, with up to 10 mature marijuana plants per person.

Medical use would be permitted for any medical condition “for which a licensed practitioner believes a cardholder patient may derive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the use of medical cannabis.”


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“Our plan is both comprehensive and benevolent,” Roberts said of the new Democratic bill. “It helps those who are sick. It gives those who shouldn’t have been charged a second chance. And it would put Kentucky at the epicenter of a multi-billion dollar business almost overnight.

The competing Republican measure on medical cannabis is much more restrictive. According to this proposal, patients should have one of the many qualified conditions specified, although regulators can add others. Home cultivation and consumption of cannabis would also remain illegal for patients. And no adult use would be allowed.

While state Governor Andy Beshear is a Democrat, his initial reaction to the legislation on Thursday seemed more aligned with Republicans. He told reporters at a press conference that he supported medical cannabis, but did not comment on adult use.

Late last year, Beshear said that “it’s time we joined so many other states in doing the right thing” and added that farmers in Kentucky would be well positioned to grow and sell cannabis to other states.

The Democratic lawmakers’ new plan leaves many program specifics up to regulators, including limits on dosage, potency, overall THC content and packaging.

Overseeing the new industry — and setting rules not only on commercial behavior, but also on possession and use — would be a seven-member Cannabis Control Board. The council would license cannabis cultivators, processors and manufacturers, testing labs, retail stores, special events, social consumption spaces, carriers and any other categories deemed necessary by regulators. A separate category of licenses would be created for so-called micro-enterprises.

The new bill would also create four stand-alone advisory committees to advise the council on adult use, medical cannabis, culture, and social and economic equity.

Cannabis sales for adult use would be taxed at 6% at the state level, with municipalities being able to add fees of up to 5% combined between local jurisdictions. Overall, sales would not be taxed more than 11%, which is lower than most other legal states.

All products should carry a warning label and include basic details including ingredients and additives, net weight, an expiration or best before date and “labeling that differentiates medical cannabis products from cannabis products for adult use”. In addition, all packaging should be opaque.

The bill would also prohibit employers or professional organizations from discriminating against people who use cannabis outside of work, as long as it does not affect their job performance or compromise their safety. Smoking marijuana in public would remain illegal but could be subject to a maximum fine of $100.

Anyone who has ever been convicted of a misdemeanor for possessing, delivering, or manufacturing cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia can apply to a court for expungement. The process would take place automatically after a year, although people could seek expungement earlier in court.

People who have been convicted of cannabis “shouldn’t have to deal with a criminal record and the life sentences and stigma that go with it,” Yates said. “We put too many people behind bars for this offence. Our prisons are full of it, and it’s both unfair and costly.

Nearly 7,600 Kentuckians, disproportionately black and young, were arrested in the state in 2018 on cannabis charges, the senator, noting that most arrests were for possession.

Meanwhile, McGarvey has posted a series of videos on TikTok that humorously express his frustration with Kentucky’s lack of progress on marijuana as other states enact reforms.

@kysenatedems

Mississi pissed off? Express yourself🗣🗣Let them know! #kysenatedems #kydems #ky #Kentucky #Politics #fyp #foryoupage #medical #legalize #decriminalization

♬ original sound – MeemzyTv

New bills face a tough road in the Republican-controlled legislature. Across the aisle, even longtime medical cannabis rep Jason Nemes (R) has added restrictions to past versions of his legislation to make his new bill more appealing to state conservatives. .

Nemes in 2020 introduced a medical legalization bill that passed the House but later died in the Senate amid the first coronavirus pandemic. He reintroduced the legislation for the 2021 session, but it did not move forward.

In recent months, Nemes has worked to build support for a new, scaled-down version of a medical marijuana bill and said in October he was confident it could pass if only legislative leaders had the “courage” to allow a vote on this.

The narrow approach is designed to win support from GOP leaders in the state Senate, who killed earlier versions of Nemes’ proposal. Senate Leader Damon Thayer (R), for example, strongly opposes the change, having warned it was a fast track to full legalization.

“I know my constituents are for it,” Thayer, a whiskey distillery owner, said during a televised panel earlier this year. “But it’s a republic, and they elect us to go to Frankfurt and make decisions on their behalf – and if they don’t like it, they can come after me in the next election.”

Others remain wary, such as House Pro Tempore Speaker David Meade (R), who told the panel he was still “on the fence” about medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Nima Kulkarni, introduced separate legislation late last year that would legalize the possession, limited sales and home cultivation of marijuana.

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