Kentucky Bill Would Legalize Cannabis for Recreational Use

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 17, 2015) – A Kentucky House bill prefiled for 2016 would legalize marijuana for recreational use, taxing and regulating the crop similar to alcohol. The proposal would not only legalize marijuana in the Bluegrass State, it would also take a big step toward blocking federal cannabis prohibition in practice in Kentucky.

Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville) prefiled Senate Bill 44 (SB44) on Dec. 11 for introduction in the 2016 legislative session. The bill would allow individuals aged 21 years and older to do the following:

"(a) Possess up to one (1) ounce of cannabis on his or her person;
(b) Possess and cultivate up to five (5) cannabis plants for personal consumption;
(c) Possess any additional cannabis produced by the person’s lawful cannabis cultivation, except that any amount of cannabis in excess of one (1) ounce shall be possessed in the same facility or on the same property where the cannabis plants were cultivated;
(d) Consume cannabis on private property with the permission of the property owner;
(e) Transfer one (1) ounce or less of cannabis and up to five (5) immature cannabis plants to persons twenty-one (21) years of age or older without remuneration; and
(f) Assist any person who is twenty-one (21) years of age or older in any of the acts described in this section."

If SB44 is successful, Kentucky would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than the ballot initiative process.

EFFECT ON PROHIBITION

Passage of SB44 would remove one layer of laws prohibiting the possession, cultivation or use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

The federal government lacks any official authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite its threats. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While the Kentucky bill would not alter federal law, it would take a step toward thwarting in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By erasing the state laws, the Kentucky legislature would essentially sweep away the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

If the state legislature passes SB44, Kentucky would join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically stopping the ban.

SB44 will be formally introduced during the 2016 legislative session, and will receive a committee assignment shortly thereafter.