Kentucky lawmakers proposes bill to legalize marijuana, use money to fund public pensions

Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 11:07 AM EST
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A Kentucky lawmaker has pre-filed a bill to legalize marijuana in the commonwealth and use the revenue from taxes to fund the state's retirement system.

Rep. Cluster Howard, D-Jackson, told WKYT the bill would allow adults 21 and older to use marijuana.

“Other states have shown that legalizing cannabis for adult use is a win-win situation for everyone involved,” said Howard. "It’s a major revenue generator; it frees up critical jail and prison space; it helps counteract the deadly opioid epidemic; it gives farmers a major new cash crop. The longer we wait, the more we miss out on these benefits.”

The bill would allow 75 percent of the license and wholesale tax fees to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System and 25 percent to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.

Rep. Howard’s bill calls for the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to oversee four types of licensing: cultivator, processor, tester, and retailer. Each license would have to be renewed annually.

Under his legislation, each county would have the chance to have at least two retailers selling marijuana and related products. Larger counties would be barred from having more than one per 2,300 people. Retailers would only be able to sell marijuana-related products.

Rep. Howard says public support for this movement has grown in recent years.

"I grew up with reefer madness, and there was this idea [that] if you use cannabis, then you would go and start using LSD and heroin," said Howard. "Times have changed and because I understand that people are now knowledgeable about the product. I thought it was a good time to bring the bill forward.'

Howard's bill would also decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana and provide free expungements for those convicted of a marijuana-related misdemeanor.

The bill would not allow people to smoke marijuana in public.

The representative told WKYT even if the bill doesn't pass he hopes it moves the conversation forward.

"We were not able to determine what Kentucky would make the first year or two, but we really think it could generate hundreds of millions of dollars down the line," said Howard.