The phone rings in the dead of night. You dread this call. Is it about a death in the family? An accident? Someone calling from the hospital?
It’s almost a relief when you hear the voice on the other end: “Mom, I’ve been arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana.” Your relief turns to concern – a small amount of marijuana, you wonder? Is that even a crime in Kentucky?
The answer is yes, it remains a crime in all but about 10 states, including Kentucky. It is also against federal law if agents should choose to enforce it.
For the record, these states allow recreational marijuana use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon. Vermont and Washington. About 23 others allow it for medicinal use. Kentucky allows for neither.
Lawmakers wants to change the law
However, state Sen. Jimmy Higdon, a Republican from Lebanon, is introducing a bill that would prohibit jail time for adults possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.
He says focusing on marijuana is silly when there’s an opioid epidemic that is killing people in Kentucky.
Offenders would receive a $100 fine and be sentenced to 15 hours of community service. The penalty would increase to $250 and 30 hours of community service if the arrest is made at an elementary or secondary school.
Current penalties in Kentucky
Marijuana is considered a Schedule I non-narcotic, placing it in a group that includes LSD, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin and MDMA. However, the punishment for marijuana is different than other Schedule I non-narcotics:
- Less than 8 ounces: Class A misdemeanor
- 8 ounces to 5 pounds: Class D felony
- 5 pounds or more: Class C felony
Unlawful possession for own use of less than 8 ounces:
- First and subsequent offenses: Class B misdemeanor
Unlawful selling or transferring by person 18 or older to person younger than 18:
- First offense: Class D felony
- Subsequent offenses: Class C felony
Unlawful planting, cultivating, harvesting
- Fewer than 5 plants: First offense: Class A misdemeanor
- Fewer than 5 plants: Subsequent offenses: Class D felony
- More than 5 plants: First offense: Class D felony
- More than 5 plants: Subsequent offense: Class C felony
Higdon’s bill would target some of these penalties.