House Bill 136, a bill pertaining to the statewide legalization of medical marijuana, will once again make its way to the Kentucky General Assembly in 2021.
On day one of the upcoming session, Rep. Jason Nemes, a Louisville Republican, will be submitting the bill, he said.
“The support in the House will be even stronger than it was last year,” he said. “We have replaced a number of no votes with yes votes in the Republican caucus due to retirement and defeating Democrats; so we will be stronger in the House. The whole question is what the Senate will do.”
In February, the Kentucky House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HB 136 65-30 after more than two hours of debate and consideration of 11 floor amendments, eight of which were approved. The bill then went to the Senate where it was overshadowed due to the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While addressing a COVID thrashed state budget and addressing Gov. Andy Beshear’s use of emergency owners are at the top of the agenda for the general assembly, Nemes knows that it will once again be passed by the House and is cautiously optimistic that the bill will make it through the Senate, if put to a vote, he said.
“I understand the the opposition,” he said. “However, if it comes to a vote in the Senate, I am confident that it will pass. I think the votes are there. I have been told many times over the years fighting for this bill that it would never get a vote in the House and if it did it wouldn’t pass. Well, I got 2/3 of the House and will have over that this year and I don’t have any reason to believe that those numbers wont be similar in the Senate.”
The detailed, 134-page bill has been tailored over the years to attempt to address concerns from various entities, causing it to be touted as the most restrictive bill of its kind every introduced during this year’s session.
In its simplest form, the bill would allow medical marijuana to become legal in the state but mandates heavy oversight on all parties that would be involved — doctors, patients, dispensaries, caregivers and more, with producers and sellers being certified by the state and caps set being on the THC level of the marijuana.
The bill also removes a patient’s ability to smoke the plant but does allow it to be used via vaping or through edibles. The goal is that the bill will sustain the medical marijuana program through licensing fees and not taxing the consumer, which makes this bill unique.
Many states, such as Illinois and Colorado, have made hundreds of millions of dollars on taxes associated with medical marijuana alone, not counting recreational.
Nemes, however, said revenue isn’t his goal.
“Anyone who says that this bill is a revenue play are either demagoguing the issue or simply don’t understand it,” he said. “Would I love to see a billion dollars in revenue, sure, but you have to remind yourself that that tax revenue would be coming from people that are sick and trying to feel better. So I don’t want to make a dollar. If it does make a bunch of money, then I will go back and reduce the licensing fees because I don’t want sick people to pay anymore than they have to, especially given that insurance doesn’t cover it and they will be paying out of pocket.”
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org