OPINION: Red eye: A look at cannabis


Piper Hansen

Today is 4/20 (April 20), or “Weed Day,” the celebration of the drug cannabis, also called marijuana, pot, Mary Jane or weed, among other names. While users in other states might be openly rolling or smoking today, Kentucky does not legally allow such activity.

Legalizing all uses of cannabis in the state of Kentucky would pose many benefits, such as state tax revenue, equality for incarcerated minorities and for additional medical purposes.

Present legislation

Currently, the state of Kentucky has strict and hefty fines for those who possess cannabis and for those who grow, distribute and sell the crop. The punishment for people who smoke and use the drug, typically for recreational use, is however much more lenient.

State tax revenue

Changing the current Kentucky laws will, as mentioned previously, increase the general state tax revenue.

Kentucky is a notable farming state that produces soybeans, corn and wheat. The majority of agricultural tax dollars come from tobacco. In 2016, the cigarette tax contributed $244,303,658 to the state’s economy, not including the amount earned from exporting to factories and for other uses across the country.

Cannabis could possess the same qualities if the production was made legal. In 2006, Kentucky had the third highest cannabis production level of all the states. This means that there is a lot of potential for authorized economic activity.

Additional tax revenue could be used to fund several programs in Kentucky that have declined in the past few decades.

Eastern Kentucky has been suffering for years and the additional state funds would help to eliminate the extreme poverty levels by providing group homes, electricity and reducing the number of food deserts.

In addition, money earned from farming and distribution could eventually help to fund teacher pensions, highway systems and other city modifications across the state that are suffering.

Equality for incarcerated individuals

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, black people are six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in this state. Legalizing cannabis would reduce the illegal market which has been offered as a possible solution to help reduce drug violence. However, there is still a disproportionate and unfair system hurting minorities.

Jails are full of African-Americans who have “minor marijuana charges” but are serving much longer sentences than white people with the same sentence. In a similar way, enforcement of cannabis laws is expensive to a point of being redundant. Paying for people to stay incarcerated costs the state an unnecessary amount that could be better invested amongst the state.

Legalization would prevent future unfair charges and would change the status quo of criminalization of minority groups.


Many people could use cannabis for medical purposes, like treating chronic pain, anxiety and attacking cancer cells. Twenty-nine states have already legalized medical cannabis for reasons like these.

The state of Kentucky would overall be positively affected by the legalization of cannabis. State issues like the defunding of public education and poverty levels in Eastern Kentucky would be in a better position in the state with the incoming state tax revenue, one step closer to racial equality for incarcerated individuals and medical advancements.

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