In November, Ohioans will vote by public referendum whether to legalize marijuana in the state.
But in Kentucky, where statewide ballot initiatives are not permitted, the path to legalization must run through the state legislature. And while recent efforts have coalesced behind legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, lawmakers haven’t exactly been forthcoming with their support.
Jaime Montalvo, founder of Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana, said most state lawmakers are reluctant to have their names tied to the cause, which can be easily muddied in attacks from opponents.
“They know something has to happen, but they don’t know how. It’s just overwhelming to them, I think,” he said. “We’re trying to get them to, when they hear the words ‘marijuana’ or ‘cannabis,’ they think of somebody that is really sick and out of options and needs a better quality of life, instead of somebody wearing bell bottoms and a tie-dye shirt, smoking a joint [and] walking down the street.”
During this year’s legislative session, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, proposed legislation that would have legalized some forms of marijuana for medical use. The bill never made it out of committee.