FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Will 2023 be the year the Kentucky legislature makes a move on marijuana?
The issue is guaranteed to come before lawmakers again as a representative has already filed a bill to legalize it for both recreational and medicinal use. State Rep. Rachel Roberts (D-Newport) knows the odds are low that the GOP-led General Assembly will get behind a full legalization bill but said this keeps the conversation going as more conservative lawmakers also warm up to the idea of medical marijuana.
“I am unaware of any other issue in the state of Kentucky that polls as highly or as bipartisan as cannabis,” Roberts told FOX 56.
Support for marijuana has continued to grow, both in the Commonwealth and nationwide. With now 37 states offering some form of legal cannabis, Roberts said it’s time for Kentucky to catch up.
“This is not an if, it’s a when, and I want to make sure that we have thought through the basic framework for this product when it becomes legal nationally and in the Commonwealth,” Roberts said.
Roberts’ “LETT’s Grow” bill would fully legalize marijuana, expunge past convictions, allow marijuana for medicinal treatment, and tax marijuana sales. However, she’s not holding her breath it will get traction.
“Do I think a full recreational adult-use cannabis bill is likely to move this year? Probably not, but this is a bump for the medical cannabis bills,” Roberts said.
Medical marijuana did pass the Kentucky House in 2022 in a bill brought by Republican State Rep. Jason Nemes, who’s promising another go in 2023.
“This is the right thing to do. It’s an unqualified good for our state, and we’re going to get it,” Nemes said earlier this month at a legislative forum event in Louisville.
An executive order by Gov. Andy Beshear does take effect at the first of the year to allow narrow legal protection for Kentucky medical marijuana patients, but both Beshear and Roberts believe it’s not a foolproof solution, and the legislature needs to step in.
“I live in northern Kentucky, and Ohio is a medical cannabis state. However, they don’t allow out-of-state purchases,” Roberts said.
If medical marijuana passes the House again, it meets its biggest challenge in the Senate where it has, so far, failed to get a vote.
“I’m a no-vote on medical marijuana, but if we have the votes to pass it, I’m not going to stand in its way,” Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) told FOX 56.
Roberts said she expects a medical marijuana bill to likely move through both chambers in 2023, but she hopes for a version that covers more conditions than the one passed in 2022. She encourages supporters on the issue to contact their elected representatives.