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Kentucky advocates fight to decriminalize marijuana

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Posted at 6:10 PM, Apr 20, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Advocates are calling for the decriminalization of marijuana in Kentucky.

"Far too many Kentuckians have been incarcerated for possession of a substance that has been decriminalized or legalized in nearly 36 states. Yet here, we're locking people up for that," said Kungu Njuguna, a policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky. "Doesn't make any sense."

So, some advocates are supporting legislation proposed by Rep. Nima Kulkarni.

House Bill 224 would remove criminal and civil penalties for the personal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. The bill also facilitates expungement.

House Bill 225 would put decriminalization to a vote on the ballot. If passed by voters, it would guarantee the right of an individual 21 years of age or older to possess, buy, use, or sell once ounce or less of cannabis.

Advocates say marijuana decriminalization is a social justice issue.

"We have seen the decades of devastation in black and brown communities as a result of our failed drug policies," said Kulkarni.

"We’re at the precipice of the opening of the cannabis industry here in Kentucky. This is indeed a dangerous moment in time for Black and Brown people. There’s a new multi-billion-dollar industry that will soon open on both the Federal and State level while simultaneously, people who look like me remain criminalized behind bars and are once again being left out of the conversation," said C.J. Carter, Kentucky State Director for Minorities for Medical Marijuana. "We now have the opportunity to write a different narrative in Kentucky that would benefit us first and foremost. The State of Kentucky and its history as it relates to cannabis owes a tremendous debt to the Black Community and that starts with this legislation that is being introduced by Rep. Kulkarni.”

"This is a freedom and social issue in our state," said Patrick Dunegan, director of Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition.