KEY POINTS

  • Kentucky Rep. Nima Kulkarni's House Bills 224 and 225 aim to decriminalize and legalize marijuana in the state
  • Passing the bills will improve the state's criminal justice system, the representative said
  • State Rep. Jason Nemes said he is "optimistic" about his push to legalize medical marijuana

The decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in Kentucky will improve the state's criminal justice system, Kentucky Rep. Nima Kulkarni said.

The lawmaker gathered with other proponents of the initiative Monday to push for action on the issue during this year's legislative session, WLKY reported.

Kulkarni, who noted that Kentucky is currently among the 14 states that have neither decriminalized nor approved the adult use of marijuana, introduced House Bills 224 and 225 on Jan. 5.

The former would decriminalize marijuana and expunge certain previous convictions related to the substance, while the latter would allow anyone aged 21 or older to possess, use, buy or sell up to an ounce of cannabis without criminal penalties.

"You can't have one without the other, and I have been very clear that I am not going to sign onto legalization legislation if we don't include decriminalization," Kulkarni explained.

The lawmaker believes that legalizing marijuana would "drastically" improve her state's "overwhelmed" criminal justice system, according to the WLKY report.

"We are wasting our time enforcing a law that should have never existed in the first place," Sheri Ray, a former corrections officer turned advocate for criminal justice and drug policy reforms, was quoted as saying.

"If people are afraid that they will be arrested or fined for simple possession of something that's legal in so many states, we're taking away opportunities to help solve crimes that we need to be focusing on," added Ray, who is also a member of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

The nonprofit organization — composed of former police members, judges and other law enforcement professionals — is currently backing Kulkarni's bills.

No action has been taken on either of Kulkarni's bills. State Rep. Attica Scott has reportedly signed on as a co-sponsor to House Bill 225, but no Republican has signed on in support of the bill and House Bill 224.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Jason Nemes said he was "optimistic" about his push to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky, a report by WHAS 11 said.

Nemes' House Bill 136 would create a medicinal cannabis program in his state for certain medical conditions that would be overseen by a new Division of Medicinal Cannabis from the state's Department of Public Health, according to the outlet.

"Too early to tell how promising it is, although I'm optimistic. I'm working as hard as I can, meeting with senators to try to get more on board, but the main thing is we need to get a vote. If it's called for a vote, it will pass," Nemes said.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers previously said he was open to discussing the issue of legalizing medical marijuana, but he said he had concerns about advancing legislation.

"This is not a drug that's a panacea to cure everything, but if there were more studies and the FDA or Johns Hopkins or somebody like that would come out and show how it should be used for medicinal and therapeutic values, then I think it would be an easier path forward," Stivers was quoted as saying.

cannabis-6838222_1920 Representation. Rep. Nima Kulkarni believes that legalizing marijuana in her state would "drastically" improve her state's "overwhelmed" criminal justice system. Photo: Pixabay