By Lawrence Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If one state lawmaker has his way, marijuana stores in Kentucky could become a reality. There's a new attempt to legalize "grass" in the Bluegrass state.
Sen. Perry Clark of Louisville has been trying for years -- unsuccessfully -- to legalize medical marijuana. Now, he's going a step further, with a bill that would allow Kentuckians to light up recreationally.
"It's time for us to leap boldly into the future," Clark told WDRB News.
Sen. Clark's bill would decriminalize and regulate the possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana.
"It is not a hard drug. It is senseless that you have cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug with heroin and LSD," he said.
Like Colorado, licensed dispensaries would be allowed to sell marijuana to the public, generating, Clark says, millions in tax revenue.
"We have got to fix this pension issue. I know of no one that has come up with any kind of credible answer," said Clark.
Perry's answer is the so-called "Cannabis Freedom Act." It would allow the sale of marijuana at licensed retail stores. Customers must be age 21 and over, though people under 21 could get marijuana if prescribed by a doctor. The bill allows possession of up to one ounce, and the private cultivation of up to five plants. There would be no smoking in public places.
Clark says it's time to bring the multi-billion marijuana industry out into the open.
"If Kentucky, as in Colorado and other states, can capitalize, bring some of that to the surface, shine the light of day on that, and benefit from that, why would we not at this point?" said Clark.
There are plenty of reasons why not, says Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation of Kentucky.
"Do we want to send the message that smoking marijuana is okay?" said Cothran.
Cothran says Clark's bill would effectively give marijuana the state's stamp of approval, and make it even more readily available, especially to young people.
"So the question is, do we want to more people using more marijuana? Is that what we want? That's the question people have to ask. That's the question legislators have to ask if they vote for this bill. Do they want more people using marijuana?" Cothran said.
But Clark says it's time to clear the air about marijuana. He believes it's no different than alcohol, and should be treated just the same.
"We have criminalized people and vilified a plant that is actually, probably, benign and beneficial to us," said Clark.
Perry admits his bill is a longshot for passage, but says public support could change minds.
No doubt both sides will be burning up the phones lines to Frankfort.