Kentucky legislator pre-files bill aimed at legalizing marijuana

Rep. Cluster Howard calls it ‘win-win’ situation

Kentucky legislator pre-files bill aimed at legalizing marijuana
A Kentucky congressman has pre-filed legislation that would allow home use and commercial sales of marijuana. (Source: Pexels)

(WAVE) - A Kentucky congressman has pre-filed legislation that would allow home use and commercial sales of marijuana.

Rep. Cluster Howard proposed the legislation that also would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of cannabis and would forgive charges for those already convicted of marijuana misdemeanors.

“Other states have shown that legalizing cannabis for adult use is a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Howard, who represents Breathitt, Estill, Lee and Owsley counties and part of Madison County, said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s a major revenue generator; it frees up critical jail and prison space; it helps counteract the deadly opioid epidemic; and it gives farmers a major new cash crop. The longer we wait, the more we miss out on these benefits.”

A significant portion of taxes and generated by recreational sales would be set aside to pay down billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities faced by the state’s two main state retirement systems, long a hot-button issue in Frankfort.

Howard noted that Michigan just reported its first eight days of recreational cannabis sales totaled $1.6 million. Illinois, meanwhile, will begin recreational cannabis sales next month and is projecting purchases to be between $1.6 billion to $2.5 billion a year, with state revenues as high as $676 million annually, Howard’s statement said.

“Illinois is three times our size, so if we got a third of that, we could boost our budget by more than $200 million a year,” Howard added. “Putting that money toward public pensions would free up other state revenues for things like our public schools and universities, and we would see even more money from related economic development and reduced prison, court and drug-treatment costs.”

Sales would be limited to those 21 and older, and smoking cannabis in public would be prohibited. The General Assembly will consider the matter in its January session.

Click here to see a map of which states have legalized marijuana.

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