FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 21, 2020) – On Thursday, the Kentucky House passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state despite federal prohibition on the same.

Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) introduced House Bill 136 (HB136) on Jan. 7. The legislation would legalize medical marijuana for patients with qualifying conditions, including AIDs, autism spectrum disorder; chronic pain; Crohn’s Disease; epilepsy or another seizure disorder; glaucoma; inflammatory bowel disease; intractable spasticity; multiple sclerosis; opioid use disorder; Parkinson’s disease; and PTSD.

HB136 would create a regulatory framework for dispensaries and cultivation of medicinal cannabis. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control would implement and regulate the program.

The House passed HB136 by a 65-30 vote.

There were several compromises in the bill, including a ban on smoking marijuana and a provision allowing counties to opt-out of the program.

After the bill passed, Nemes told reporters, “We have momentum, but we’re not there yet.” He credited grassroots activists for helping push the bill through the House.

“This bill is about love. These advocates are working their tails off because they love the people who will be helped by this. They love their spouses, they love their children.”

The bill will face an uphill battle in the Senate. A number of prominent Republicans have expressed reservations about the bill. Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) has said he thinks there needs to be more research on the effects of cannabis.

Kentucky could become the 34th state to legalize marijuana for medical use despite ongoing federal prohibition.


Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of medical cannabis would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the Bluegrass State, but federal prohibition would remain in effect. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.


Kentucky joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019.

With 33 states including allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.


HB136 will now move to the Senate for further consideration. At the time of this report, the bill had not been referred to a Senate committee. Once it is assigned to a committee, it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process. If you live in Kentucky, you can support the passage of this bill by contacting Senate President Robert Stivers. Politely but firmly ask him to move the legislation through the process. You can find his contact information here.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

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