Kentucky is one of the few states in the US that has not yet legalized cannabis for adult use, but that could change soon. A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would end cannabis prohibition and create a regulated market for cultivation and sales.
The L.E.T.T.S. Grow Act
The bill, named the L.E.T.T.S. Grow Act (House Bill 420 Senate Bill 186), was introduced by Rep. Rachel Roberts, a Democrat from Newport, on Tuesday. She received applause from her colleagues when she unveiled the proposal on the House floor. The bill has six co-sponsors so far, all Democrats.
The L.E.T.T.S. Grow Act would allow adults 21 and older to possess, grow, process, market, sell and use cannabis for recreational purposes. It would also establish a state regulatory authority to oversee the industry and issue licenses for cannabis businesses. The bill would impose a 9% excise tax on cannabis sales, both at the retail and wholesale level, starting from July 1, 2025. The tax rate could be adjusted by the regulatory board after one year.
The bill would also create a cannabis fund to collect the revenues from taxes, fees and fines. The fund would be used to cover the costs of administering the law, and at least 30% of the remaining money would be allocated to a social impact council. The council would be responsible for addressing the harms caused by the war on drugs and providing scholarships, education and job training programs for communities affected by substance abuse and criminalization.
A Long-Shot Effort
The L.E.T.T.S. Grow Act is not the first attempt to legalize cannabis in Kentucky, but it is the most comprehensive one. In 2020, another bill was introduced to allow adult-use cannabis, but it did not advance in the legislature. The same year, Kentucky legalized medical cannabis, but the program will not take effect until 2025.
The chances of passing the L.E.T.T.S. Grow Act are slim, as Kentucky has a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and a conservative governor, Andy Beshear. However, Rep. Roberts said she was optimistic and hopeful that her bill would spark a conversation and a debate among lawmakers and the public.
She said that cannabis legalization was a matter of common sense and justice, as well as an economic opportunity for the state. She pointed out that Kentucky was lagging behind other states that have legalized cannabis, including its neighbors Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and Virginia. She also said that cannabis was already widely used, grown and sold in Kentucky, but without any regulation or taxation.
“Make no mistake,” she said. “People in Kentucky currently are using cannabis. They’re growing cannabis. They’re selling cannabis. It’s just not regulated for consumer safety or taxed for the benefit of the general populace.”
The Benefits of Legalization
According to a 2019 poll, 59% of Kentuckians support legalizing cannabis for adult use, and 90% support legalizing it for medical use. The supporters of legalization argue that it would bring several benefits to the state, such as:
- Generating new revenues for the state budget and local governments
- Creating new jobs and businesses in the cannabis industry
- Reducing the black market and the associated crime and violence
- Saving law enforcement resources and reducing arrests and incarceration
- Protecting consumers’ health and safety by ensuring product quality and potency
- Expanding access to cannabis for medical patients and veterans
- Addressing the social and racial injustices caused by the war on drugs
- Respecting individual freedom and personal choice
The opponents of legalization, on the other hand, claim that it would have negative consequences, such as:
- Increasing cannabis use and abuse, especially among youth and vulnerable groups
- Impairing public health and safety, especially on the roads and in the workplaces
- Exposing children and pets to accidental ingestion and poisoning
- Encouraging the use of other drugs and substances
- Undermining the medical cannabis program and the research on cannabis
- Conflicting with federal law and risking federal intervention
- Sending the wrong message to the society and the youth
The debate over cannabis legalization is likely to continue in Kentucky, as the L.E.T.T.S. Grow Act faces an uphill battle in the legislature. However, the bill represents a bold and progressive step towards ending cannabis prohibition and creating a legal and regulated market in the state.