Cannabis Enters the Kentucky Governor’s Race

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial candidate Adam Edelen offered a plan on Monday to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

Edelen’s plan stops short of fully legalizing marijuana. He had media events in Louisville and Lexington, the state’s two largest cities, during the day to announce details of his proposal. It’s the latest in a series of progressive stands taken by the former state auditor.

Edelen said his plan aims to reduce taxpayer-backed incarceration costs. Under his proposal, people could face civil fines but not be charged with a crime for possessing less than half an ounce of cannabis for personal use.

11,000 Convictions Last Year

More than 11,000 Kentuckians were convicted of cannabis possession last year, taking a toll on families and consuming considerable law enforcement capacity that’s better spent on more serious problems, he said.

“It’s time that we stop spending millions locking people up and tearing apart families as punishment for recreational marijuana use,” Edelen said in a statement. “We need modern laws that reflect our modern world, and that means that no one should be held in jail for weeks or be forced into a criminal justice system that limits their potential just for having a small bag of marijuana.”

$15 Million Savings

Edelen estimates his plan would save the state $15 million a year, money he would shift into treatment and recovery programs for people addicted to powerful opioid painkillers.

Edelen also called for automatically sealing past criminal convictions that would no longer constitute crimes under his new guidelines. Tens of thousands of Kentuckians have cannabis possession convictions on their permanent records, and he said non-violent, non-repeat offenders shouldn’t continue to have their lives dogged by those convictions.

6x Racial Disparity

Edelen pointed to a study showing that enforcement of cannabis laws fall

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