Kentucky Democratic leaders announced on Monday that legalizing medical marijuana is one of their top priorities for the upcoming 2022 legislative session.
At a press briefing, party leaders from the House and Senate laid out their goals for the new year, highlighting cannabis reform as one of several major issues for the year in a list that also includes expanding healthcare, voting access, legalizing sports betting and universal pre-k education.
“Another thing enjoys widespread support among Kentuckians—and is just long overdue—is commonsense cannabis laws,” Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey (D) said. “We must go ahead and get medical marijuana passed in Kentucky this session.”
Watch the leader talk about medical cannabis reform in the video below, around 8:25 into the video below:
The senator said lawmakers are reading to work with the governor in “making sure that Kentucky has a great medical cannabis law for its people.”
He later said that, between federal funding and the state’s budget surplus, Kentucky has the ability to accomplish a number of priorities, including joining other states that “have medical marijuana that can provide additional revenue to the Commonwealth.”
“That’s why we’re pushing forward these priorities because we think not only can it pass, it should pass,” McGarvey said. “We want Kentucky to continue going on the right track.”
Today, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly rolled out their 2022 agenda to make life better for KYians—affordable health care, pre-K for every child, medical marijuana, voting rights and more. We're fighting for working people every step of the way. https://t.co/1at41zsEQO
— Kentucky Democrats (@KyDems) January 3, 2022
Last month, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said medical marijuana is “the future,” and part of that future should involve letting farmers grow cannabis to sell to other states. He also expressed openness to broader legislation that would allow adults 21 and older to grow and possess cannabis without having a medical reason for it.
“This is the future. It’s where things are going,” he said of medical marijuana. “It’s time we joined so many other states in doing the right thing.”
Beshear, who called on lawmakers to pass the reform during a State of the Commonwealth last year, said that “it is past time” to legalize cannabis for medical use and that the plant “can provide some relief for folks that would otherwise turn to more damaging substances.”
McGarvey said at Monday’s presser that Kentuckians “have been crying out for [medical marijuana legalization] for years.”
“These issues are popular across the Commonwealth,” McGarvey said. “After careful consideration, deliberation, and speaking with constituents, we feel the proposals we have laid out empower individuals and help our state move forward. We are hopeful that some, if not all, can advance with bipartisan work and support from our Republican colleagues in the Senate and House.”
While the governor has said that his focus will be on getting medical cannabis enacted in the coming legislative session, he also talked about broader legislation introduced by Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) in November would prevent people from being incarcerated over marijuana for any use, saying he’s in favor of that policy.
Kulkarni’s bill would legalize the possession and personal cultivation of cannabis, but it doesn’t provide a regulatory framework for commercial sales.
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The Republican sponsor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky said in October that he made multiple revisions to the legislation to scale it back and add restrictions to garner more support from colleagues—and he said he’s confident it would pass if legislative leaders had the “courage” to simply allow a vote on it.
Rep. Jason Nemes (R) filed a medical legalization bill that soundly passed the House in 2020 but later died in the Senate without a vote amid the early part of the coronavirus pandemic. He reintroduced the legislation last January for the 2021 session but it did not advance in that session. Now he’s working to build support for a new version for 2022.
A poll released in 2020 found that nine out of 10 Kentucky residents support legalizing medical marijuana, and almost 60 percent say cannabis should be legal under “any circumstances.”
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.
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