Common Ground: Cannabis

02/12/2018 06:11 PM

Cannabis, marijuana, weed — whatever you call it — it’s been a hot button issue for years.

It’s an issue that’s been picking up steam recently here in the Commonwealth, with members from both sides of the aisle introducing legislation to legalize marijuana in one form or another.

Twenty-nine states across the nation have legalized cannabis—either for medicinal or recreational use, but it remains illegal in Kentucky.

There are two bills filed in the General Assembly which would change that status of cannabis: Senate Bill 80 and House Bill 166.

Senate Bill 80 —filed by Republican Sen.r Dan Seum. R-Fairdale, seeks to legalize all forms of cannabis use. His measure would allow anyone 21 years or older to purchase up to 28 grams of cannabis. He estimates it will create 15,000 jobs, and generate around $100-200 million in extra revenue annually.

House Bill 166 has also been filed—by Democrat Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg, his measure would legalize medical cannabis.

This measure would allow those with certain medical or depilating conditions to purchase and use cannabis. It would create a new “Cannabis Enforcement Program” within the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and require users to be prescribed by a doctor. Many supporters of the measure see cannabis as a better alternative to opioids for pain and other illness.

The measure is being pushed aggressively by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
A wide majority of Republicans in the state legislature are still against legalizing cannabis in the state of any form.

Governor Bevin has called legalization a “suckers bet” saying the disadvantages far outweigh the revenue benefits the state would see from legalization.

Federally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to crack down on the use of cannabis—which still remains illegal federally—recently rescinding the “Cole Memo” which provided some legal protections for businesses operating in states that allow legal cannabis.

So where does that leave us in the Commonwealth? It’s unclear.

For years, medical cannabis advocates have tried and failed to get medicinal use in Kentucky; filing bill after bill — this session’s bill could have the same fate as the other failed bills. The House bill, HB 166 has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee as of February 8 — meaning it could receive a hearing after all.

As for Senate Bill 80—which seeks to legalize cannabis completely—that is more of a long shot—and will likely not receive a hearing.

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.