Kentucky legislature should legalize recreational marijuana


Kentucky has the opportunity to follow the successful policies of states like Colorado and Oregon by passing the Cannabis Freedom Act to legalize recreational marijuana.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Perry Clark (D) from Louisville, would effectively legalize recreational marijuana in the Commonwealth and regulate the drug similarly to alcohol, with permission to grow the plant and sell it in retail stores. It would allow use for Kentuckians 21 and over, possession of up to one ounce on one’s person and cultivation of up to five plants. Public use would still be prohibited.

Marijuana legalization is undeniably successful in Colorado, where a whole new industry developed because of the cash crop. 

A report from the Drug Policy Alliance measured the societal effects of legalizing marijuana in Colorado for a one-year period after the drug became legal in January 2014. Some of the statistics likely surprised many, as the state experienced a decrease in crime rates, a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and an increase in jobs and economic output.

In other words, almost everything detractors said would happen did not. The state did not fall into a drug-fueled anarchy; rather, it has experienced a growth in both tourism and industry. 

This bill could be the perfect economic opportunity for Kentucky, which is struggling to find a bankable industry as the state’s iconic coal industry experienced major cuts and layoffs in recent years to become a shell of its former self.

Admittedly, the bill has very little chance of passing considering recreational marijuana’s low level of support in Kentucky, but medical marijuana is becoming a more likely possibility.

“There’s been some real tear jerking stories told by people who have to go to great lengths and risk being charged with a crime in order to get marijuana to treat some disease or affliction,” associate professor and Courier-Journal veteran Al Cross said. 

During last year’s gubernatorial debate at EKU, then Republican candidate Matt Bevin said if a bill legalizing medical marijuana were to reach his desk, he would sign it into law.

In 2014, the Kentucky General Assembly approved the prescribing of cannabis oil by doctors at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.

If the bill passes, Kentucky will become the fifth state, along with the District of Columbia, to pass an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana.

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