Kentucky senator backs legalizing marijuana to fund state's pens - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky senator backs legalizing marijuana to fund state's pensions crisis

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A marijuana plant. A marijuana plant.
Sen. Dan Seum Sen. Dan Seum

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An influential Kentucky legislator thinks marijuana can help weed out the state’s pension problem.

“We've got a desperate situation in Frankfort over the pension issue,” said Sen. Dan Seum (R-Fairdale).

Seum believes desperate times require desperate measures, which is why he is backing the idea of legalizing and taxing marijuana for adult use as a way to dig out of the $30 billion pension hole.

 “Twenty-eight states now have one form or another of legalized cannabis, or marijuana," Seum said. "Colorado is really knocking down some good money on that."

Seum, who is the Senate Majority Caucus Chairman, believes marijuana could create jobs and generate $100 million a year in revenue. That is compared to the $1 billion a year it could take to fund the shortfall.

“Well, it's ten percent of the problem," Seum said. "And before you start passing taxes, you may want to consider this potential new money."

But critics said legalizing marijuana will only add to the state's already serious problem with drug addiction and not do much to solve the pension problem.

“Retirees will not be comforted if they know that the money they're retiring on is money that's coming from the sale of drugs,” said Martin Cothran of the Family Foundation of Kentucky.

Seum believes most retirees will not care about the source of their retirement funds.

“I think most of them, quite frankly, would be happy to fund it any way they want as long as they don't lose their pensions,” he said.

Seum compared marijuana to Kentucky's booming bourbon industry.

“We are the bourbon state, and I will guarantee you more people have died or gotten sick or passed way over liquor than all of our drugs put together,” he said.

But Cothran is confident the idea will never catch fire in the legislature despite the pension crisis. He said lawmakers need to take a more serious, long-term approach.

“How do we structure this system in a way that this won't happen again?" he said. "And then we can talk about the funding."

Lawmakers have snuffed out the idea of legalizing marijuana for years, but Seum said times and circumstances have changed. He believes the expected special session on pensions will make his colleagues more open to the idea.

“Once we get through with the special session and we realize we need $1 billion, desperation might pass that bill,” he said

This is not the first unorthodox plan to fund pensions. Bills have already been filed to legalize casinos and betting on sports.

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