Louisville senator pre-files bill to legalize cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana

Sen. Perry B. Clark, D-Louisville
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - A Louisville senator on Friday pre-filed the “Cannabis Freedom Act” to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis for people over 21 years old.

The Cannabis Freedom act, filed by Democrat Perry B. Clark, would repeal Kentucky’s total prohibition on marijuana cultivation, possession, and sale by adults who are 21 and older. Clark, in a news release, said the act would provide a "regulatory framework designed to promote public safety and responsible" cannabis consumption.

“It is abundantly clear to me that cannabis, while being much less harmful, should be treated the same as alcohol,” Clark said. “The Cannabis Freedom Act is an outline on how to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older in Kentucky. It is time for this discussion in our Commonwealth.”

The bill would allow adults 21 and older to:

  • Possess up to one ounce of cannabis
  • Cultivate up to five cannabis plants
  • Store excess cannabis lawfully grown for personal use at the location where it was cultivated; or
  • Transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another person age 21 or older without remuneration

Clark wrote an editorial that says no one has adequately answered "why cannabis is illegal."

"Few believe that anyone should be incarcerated where the cannabis plant is involved," he wrote. "Most of my life we have expended tax dollars pursuing a ban on a plant. Wasted dollars they were. We have exponentially increased the power and scope of our criminal justice system by strapping it with issues concerning a plant."

Clark, who points to Colorado's recent passage of recreational marijuana, says the state would see a boost in its economy. He noted that Colorado has seen a 95 percent reduction in marijuana arrest rates, which benefits an overburdened criminal justice system. He said they will likely save millions, and see an increase in tax revenue that can be used for a multitude of programs, such as law enforcement, education and drug rehabilitation.

"The savings and revenue increases in Kentucky would be enough to offset needed raises for our state troopers, correction officers and parole officers, while alleviating job pressures caused by laws vilifying a plant. Maybe," Clark said. "Certainly there will be many other ideas relating to other economic advantages when, as in Colorado, Kentucky benefits from a decrease in traffic fatalities, an increase in tax revenue and economic output from retail marijuana sales, and an increase in jobs, a decrease in crime rates and double digit percent growth rates in tourism."

Clark says the Cannabis Freedom Act "creates a strict three-tier licensing system which separates and regulates cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers independently to prevent monopolization and vertical integration."

It also creates a restricted fund using the tax revenue generated from legal cannabis sales to increase SEEK funding for Kentucky’s public schools, provide needs-based scholarships to Kentucky students who want to attend public institutions of post-secondary education located within the Commonwealth, increase funding for evidence- based substance abuse treatment programs, provide grants to local law enforcement agencies to purchase protective equipment, and provide additional revenue to the general fund.

“This is a common sense proposal that moves Kentucky positively forward,” Clark said.

Unlawful possession of cannabis would result in a $250 fine. Possession of six or more plants would also result in a fine.

The proposal calls for a Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control to implement "various aspects" of the act within 180 days of it becoming law.

Clark’s bill will be considered during the 2016 Legislative Session, which convenes Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Cannabis Freedom Act