FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — A state representative pre-filed two bills Monday that would decriminalize the personal use of marijuana in Kentucky.
Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D-Louisville) pre-filed a bill that would amend the state's constitution, permitting Kentuckians 21 and older to possess, use, buy, or sell up to one ounce of cannabis without criminal penalty. Kentuckians would also be allowed to have up to five plants for personal use.
The constitutional amendment would need to be approved by three-fifths of the House and Senate during the upcoming 2022 legislative session, before going in front of voters next November.
Rep. Kulkarni's second bill would have the legislature eliminate criminal penalties for possessing, cultivating, and/or selling small amounts of cannabis. The bill would also remove cannabis accessories from the state's drug-paraphernalia statutes.
"[These bills] speak to Kentucky moving forward," she said. "It speaks to us not continuing to be behind the curve or within a shrinking minority of states that simply refuse to discuss the issue in any serious manner."
Rep. Kulkarni said that while she knows the political winds may not be in her favor this upcoming session, she wants to start a conversation about the ways in which the legalization of marijuana could make Kentucky a more equitable and successful state.
She cited an ACLU study from 2020 that showed that Black Kentuckians were nearly ten times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Kentuckians, despite having similar marijuana use rates.
"Clearly marijuana and the war on drugs have fallen disproportionately on people of color here in Kentucky," said Kungu Njuguna, a policy strategist with the ACLU-KY.
The ACLU is one of several organizations that have thrown support behind the bills pre-filed Monday.
In a press release, the state director for Americans for Prosperity-Kentucky said, "We applaud Rep. Kulkarni for introducing bills that would move Kentucky away from the harmful policies that have criminalized the use and possession of marijuana."
In addition to addressing racial inequities, Rep. Kulkarni said legalizing marijuana would provide mental and physical relief to "thousands of citizens," from cancer patients to veterans suffering from PTSD. She also said it would generate reliable revenue for the commonwealth without raising taxes.