First Arkansas, then Kentucky?
Those could be the first two states in the South to legalize medical marijuana, opening up a whole new region of the country to the MMJ industry.
While Arkansas voters will get the chance to weigh in on the issue this November, legislators in Kentucky will debate the pros and cons of MMJ legalization next year. On Monday, Sen. Perry Clark – a Democrat representing Louisville – pre-filed a bill for the 2013 legislative session that calls for Kentucky to legalize medical marijuana possession, use and distribution. Under the measure, dispensaries would be able to operate under state-enforced regulations and rules.
Kentucky’s entrance into the discussion is significant, given that medical marijuana does not yet have a foothold in the South (the only region of the country without MMJ laws). The more states that debate the issue, the more accustomed people become to the very idea of medical marijuana. With Arkansas and now Kentucky considering medical marijuana, it stands to reason that more states in the South will do the same in the years to come.
It could still be a while before dispensaries start popping up in that region of the country, though. Resistance to MMJ remains strong, and the odds are slim that medical cannabis will make much headway over the next year in Arkansas or Kentucky. Voters in Arkansas are evenly split on the issue, according to recent polls, while Clark acknowledged that gaining support for his bill in Kentucky is going to be “very, very difficult.” In fact Clark introduce a bill earlier this year that would have allowed doctors to prescribe MMJ, but the measure didn’t even get a hearing.
Still, the MMJ industry should take heart in the developments in the South. As we’ve seen in other areas of the country, it typically takes several tries before a state passes medical marijuana laws. At least the process is now underway in the South, which bodes well for the industry’s future in the region.