Marijuana Legalization: Kentucky Tries Again With 'Cannabis Freedom Act'

Will Kentucky become the next Colorado or Washington and gather millions of dollars in sales for legalizing marijuana? Colorado and Washington have found success with legalizing marijuana for recreational use, and now it appears that Kentucky is following their lead.

WHAS 11 was one of the first to report the breaking news story on December 11, and they state that "Kentucky Senator Perry B. Clark (D-Louisville) pre-filed an act that would legalize and regulate cannabis in a similar way the Bluegrass State handles alcohol."

Unlike similarly proposed laws in the past, Senator Clark is calling Kentucky's new marijuana legalization law the "Cannabis Freedom Act."

Kentucky is not the only state besides Colorado or Washington to consider marijuana legalization for recreational use, and the Cannabis Freedom Act has been in the making for a while. Interestingly, one of the biggest supporters of marijuana legalization is Kentucky's newly elected Republican governor, Matt Bevins.

Reason points out that legalizing marijuana might have been the "wrinkle" that caused Matt Bevins to get elected in Kentucky over Lieutenant Governor, Jack Conway.

About the debates between the gubernatorial nominees, High Times reported from Eastern Kentucky University at the end of October and paraphrased Jack Conway's anti-marijuana statement with the following.

"[By] providing a legal market there will be more of an opportunity for the drug to fall into the hands of children and turn them into 'a lost generation' of reckless dope fiends."
Although Governor Matt Bevins is a recent addition to the marijuana legalization struggle in Kentucky, the issue has been active in several communities within the state for several years.

This especially became apparent when the bordering state of Ohio recently went through their own marijuana legalization voting. In the case of Ohio, however, the voting was to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use (but the vote did not pass).

According to Cincinnati Enquirer, Northern Kentucky citizens started advocating to make marijuana legal in the Bluegrass State with groups like KY4MM (Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana). Part of the group's message is that, in addition to other problems, Kentucky's opiate-addiction issues could be addressed by legalizing marijuana.

Cincinnati Enquirer also points out that Kentucky lawmakers have tried to legalize marijuana in the past and state the following.

"Last year, Kentucky Representative Greg Stumbo, speaker of the House of Representatives, introduced a medical marijuana bill. It never passed committee. And in 2014, Senator Perry Clark, D-Louisville, introduced a bill that would let Kentuckians use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill also died."
Despite failures of the past, many Kentuckians remain firm that marijuana legalization is an act of mercy. WAVE 3 interviewed an Owensboro, Kentucky, woman advocating for marijuana legalization laws for her own health problems. In addition to autoimmune disease, the woman was taking over 20 medications -- and using marijuana to improve her quality-of-life due to medication side effects.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is a long-time supporter of Medical Marijuana.
Earlier in 2015, Rand Paul came out to support a federal bill that would take medical marijuana out of the Controlled Substance Act. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Although there is always a chance that Kentucky's medical legalization attempt will fail once again -- this time around there is an extra layer of intrigue. Perhaps, unlike the past, the current marijuana legalization attempt in Kentucky will be sweetened by the marijuana industry itself.

The Daily Independent claims that the marijuana industry has been encouraging at least one Kentucky Republican politician to consider what marijuana legalization for recreational use could mean for the state. In particular, Senator Rand Paul received the maximum $5,000 for donations to his election campaign from the Marijuana Policy Project.

In the end, while the marijuana legalization act in Kentucky might be advocated by those seeking compassionate use for medical issues -- increasing Kentucky's tax revenues may be a tempting option to keep elected officials in office.

Unlike past years, the current Kentucky government has turned a significant budget surplus of over $165 million dollars, according to WFPL. Nevertheless, the Washington Times corrected this figure to $46 million after Kentucky's road repairs were taken into consideration.

Kentucky begins voting on marijuana legalization in January 2016
Kentuckians will know if they are beginning the marijuana legalization process in their state as early as the first week of 2016. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

How much money could Kentucky expect from marijuana legalization taxes? According to Bloomberg, Colorado collected $66 million in tax dollars the first year marijuana was legalized.

Naturally, like Colorado, Kentucky plans to use a lot of this potential marijuana legalization revenue to promote education. According to LEX 18, Senator Clark recently stated that the Cannabis Freedom Act would generate funds "to increase SEEK funding for Kentucky's public schools" as well as scholarships for Kentucky students.

If Kentucky does begin the process to legalize marijuana, the public will know within a month. This bill will be considered during the first 2016 Kentucky Legislative session which will convene on Tuesday, January 5.

[Picture by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]