More than 300,000 people in Kentucky have faced cannabis charges in the past two decades

More than 300,000 people in Kentucky have faced cannabis charges in the past two decades
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 3:43 PM EDT

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - As states across the country have moved to decriminalize cannabis, Kentucky remains one of just 18 where it’s still criminalized. A report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says more than 300,000 people in Kentucky have been charged with cannabis-related crimes in the past two decades.

“Cannabis-related charges affect every county in the state, and it varies based on the county, but our rural areas are sometimes twice as likely to convict people of cannabis-related charges than our bigger cities, but there’s no county in Kentucky that isn’t dealing with this issue,” said policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, Kaylee Raymer.

Over the course of two decades, more than 64,000 people in the Appalachian region were charged with cannabis offenses. That’s not far off from Jefferson County’s more than 72,000 people charged in the same period and more than three times Fayette County’s roughly 18,000.

See below for county-level data on cannabis charges and convictions for all 120 Kentucky counties.

Raymer explains even a misdemeanor possession conviction can have lasting, harmful effects on a person’s life.

“They may be subject to fines and fees depending on their record and the type of charge. They may end up on probation and have to report to a probation officer or comply to other terms of probation. They may also face new factors when trying to look for a job with a cannabis charge or conviction on their record. It could affect their ability to get housing,” said Raymer.

She says decriminalizing cannabis in Kentucky would have a positive impact on the entire state.

“We could regulate and tax cannabis. That’s new revenue for our state so we can pay for the resources Kentuckians need. And the good thing about decriminalizing cannabis is most other states have already done it so we have a lot of models that we can look at and we can see what mistakes were made,” said Raymer.