State Rep. Cluster Howard has pre-filed a bill that seeks to legalize recreational marijuana use in Kentucky.

The bill would empower the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency to oversee licensing for cultivation, processing, testing, and retailing adult-use cannabis. It would also govern home cultivation, allowing Kentucky residents to pay $250 for a permit that would allow them to have up to five mature plants and five immature plants.

The sweeping bill also seeks to provide free expungements for anyone convicted of minor cannabis related misdemeanours in the past, according to the press release. Howard, a Democrat representing Jackson, is also a health professor at Hazard Community and Technical College, hopes tax revenue from a legal marijuana industry can help bring down multi-billion-dollar liabilities in the Kentucky Employees Retirement System’s pension scheme.

The bill proposes that 75% of revenue goes towards the Kentucky Employees Retirement System and 25% would be provided to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.

Howard said that other states have already shown adult-use marijuana legalization to be a win-win situation. “It’s a major revenue generator, it frees up critical jail and prison space, it helps counteract the deadly opioid epidemic, it gives farmers a major new cash crop – the longer we wait, the more we miss out on these benefits,” he said.

He hopes that even if the bill does not pass that it will at least nudge the conversation forward in Kentucky. Howard argued that public support for legalization has increased in recent years and stressed that the days of people fearing it to be a gateway drug are over.

The bill would restrict sales to people aged 21 and over, while smoking cannabis in public would be banned. Each county in the state could have up to two large retailers, although larger counties could have more provided they do not exceed one store for every 2,300 residents.

Kentucky is one of just 10 states in which marijuana is totally illegal and criminalized. Lawmakers are set to consider a bill to legalize medical marijuana early in 2020, but Howard is keen to go one step further by legalizing recreational use too. Previous attempts to legalize medical marijuana in the Bluegrass State resulted in failure.

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