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Louisville activists push for pot pardons for low-level offenses, following President Biden's move

It's a long-standing issue for activists who want to see weed decriminalized.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — News of President Joe Biden's federal marijuana possession pardons has some people in Louisville hopeful that Kentuckians can see the same throughout the state.

It's a long-standing issue for activists who want to see low-level weed offenses decriminalized.

Dee Dee Taylor, owner of 502 Hemp, said Biden's move is a great step and she hopes Kentuckiana follows suit, and goes a step further to legalize the plant, completely.

She said the history of going after drugs has created a disproportionate number of minorities in jail for minor offenses.

“The war on drugs was really a war on race, and there's way too many people of color that are sitting in jail over a dime bag or a joint,” Taylor said.

ACLU Policy Strategist Kungu Njuguna said nationally Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for weed possession; he says its 10 times more likely in Kentucky.

He's calling on Gov. Andy Beshear to follow Biden's lead because he said most of the possession charges are on the state level.

In 2020, Njuguna said there were 8,000 marijuana-related convictions, and of those, 91% were of possession.

“So think what the governor can do with the stroke of a pen today,” he said. “He can help a lot of Kentuckians, and I hope he does that."

In a statement, Beshear said he "agrees that no one should be in jail simply because of possession of marijuana."

He also said he wants more details on Biden's pardons and said he will review them in his larger analysis on medical cannabis.

Taylor served on the governor's medical advisory board, which toured the state and surveyed Kentuckians on how they feel about medicinal marijuana.

“I don't see any reason why it shouldn't pass this year. 90, what, 98% of Kentuckians are for it, at least the ones that were polled are for it,” Taylor said. “It is a small handful of people that are not for it.”

Though it's a step down from legalizing the plant like she wants, she said it'll help Kentuckians she spoke to who said they need medicinal marijuana, including veterans suffering from PTSD.

“It helps with their pain, like they were just being over and over prescribed prescription drugs, and opiates and other things that led them to addictions as well,” Taylor said.

She said the committee submitted its report to Beshear, and she hopes it's addressed by lawmakers in January.

Taylor is also hopeful that a similar bill will pass in Indiana. She’s soon opening a store, 812 Hemp, in Clarksville.

The Drug Enforcement Agency's website says they classify drugs into five categories or "schedules."

It's all based on the drug's acceptable medical use and potential for abuse or dependency.

Right now marijuana and heroin are both schedule one drugs.

"Schedule 1 drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," according to the DEA's website.

However, some states allow the medical use of marijuana including nearby states like Illinois, Ohio and Michigan.

But the U.S. Food Administration has not yet approved it for medical use across the country.

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