The state of Kentucky is facing a major budget shortfall when it comes to their pension systems; estimates place the amount of unfunded liabilities at somewhere between $37 billion and $64 billion.
“I think desperation might help [pass legalization] — we need a billion dollars (a year),” said Republican state Senator Dan Seum. He has plans to introduce an adult use marijuana legalization bill in the KY legislature before the 2018 regular session begins. Seum hopes the prospect of increased tax revenues at a critical time will convince some of his colleagues to take a closer look at the measure.
“Once we come out of the special session the governor is about to call, then we’re going to have a real, hopefully a real understanding of what the needs are when it comes to revenue,” Seum said.
Last week, members of the state’s Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, state workers and members of the public gathered in Frankfort (the state capital) to debate the pros and cons of legalization. “I don’t think we can, in any way, try to make out people that are using it (marijuana), whether medical or any other way, as being criminal,” one lawmaker said.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin – who claimed to support medical marijuana when he ran for governor in 2015 – responded to the possible legalization bill by ruling out adult use legalization as something that will happen on his watch, claiming people were overdosing on marijuana in Colorado because of legalization there.
Almost 2 years into his term, Governor Bevin has yet to throw his support behind a medical marijuana measure, leaving to issue to continue to languish in the halls of the state legislature.
When you add Bevin’s stand to the fact that medical marijuana gained little traction in the state even before he became governor, the odds of adult use legalization becoming a reality in Kentucky anytime in the near future become rather long. Even further complicating possible success is the rural nature of the state and the preponderance of older, conservative Republican voters (Trump won KY by some 30 percentage points). These voters, according to polls, are historically the most hostile to the notion of cannabis legalization.
On the bright side, legalization is an issue that continues to be talked about in the state and it continues to generate news coverage, something that can lead to people who have not really looked at the issue before to do some more research or at least keep an open mind.