Is marijuana legal in Kentucky?
Current legality status
Cannabis is illegal under state law.
Recreational cannabis is not legal in the state, and nor is medical cannabis with THC. However, medicinal CBD (cannabidiol) products are legal with a written certificate from a physician. Hemp-derived CBD is also widely available.
There are no medical dispensaries in Kentucky. Kentucky patients with a physician’s recommendation may obtain CBD medicine by traveling to a medical cannabis state that would recognize a physician’s written order as valid. Hemp-derived CBD with 0.3% THC or less is available from retail stores in the state, however.
Cannabis has not been decriminalized in Kentucky, although in 2019 Louisville passed an ordinance to discourage the arrest of individuals found with less than half an ounce. Possession of up to 8 ounces of cannabis in Kentucky is a Class B misdemeanor, subject to a penalty of up to 45 days in prison and a maximum fine of $250. Possession of 8 ounces or more is viewed as evidence of intent to distribute and may be charged as a felony.
Kentucky adheres to a sliding scale of penalties for the distribution of cannabis. The delivery of fewer than 8 ounces is punishable by up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $500. The trafficking of larger quantities of cannabis receives longer prison sentences and larger fines.
There are no initiatives or ballots currently pending to legalize recreational cannabis.
Kentucky recreational & medical marijuana legalization efforts
Kentucky’s legal stance on medical marijuana is guided by SB 124, which was passed in 2014 and is now enshrined in law within Chapter 218A of Kentucky’s Statutes. SB 124 legalized cannabidiol (CBD) for medical purposes.
The bill enabled Kentucky residents to access CBD as a treatment under the recommendation of a physician practicing at a state research hospital. SB 124 also made an exemption for medical marijuana used in FDA-approved studies or compassionate use programs.
In 2017, HB 333 authorized CBD products approved as a prescription medication by the FDA and legalized the sale and consumption of hemp-derived CBD with 0.3% THC or less for all Kentucky citizens.
Kentucky state legislators have made several attempts to legalize medical cannabis over the past decade, including SB40 in 2015 and HB 166 in 2018. Most recently, HB 136 was passed on February 20, 2020. The bill was not taken up before the Senate adjourned for the year in April, which effectively killed it.
There are presently no possession limits outlined in law for prescription CBD medicine or hemp-derived CBD.
Medical CBD in Kentucky
Medical marijuana cards are not available in Kentucky. Kentucky residents who wish to access medical CBD products will need a written order from an eligible physician.
Qualifying conditions refer to illnesses or ailments that may benefit from medical marijuana treatment.
SB 124 does not place any limitations on qualifying conditions to access CBD for medical purposes.
The law in Kentucky does not address out-of-state patients. In addition, states that offer reciprocity for out-of-state medical cannabis patients typically require a valid medical cannabis registry ID card, which Kentucky does not offer.
Kentucky marijuana growing laws
It is illegal to cultivate medical cannabis or CBD-rich hemp in Kentucky. Individuals who cultivate cannabis are subject to penalties.
Cultivation of fewer than five plants
- First offense: Class A misdemeanor, maximum sentence of 12 months imprisonment, maximum fine of $500
- Second and subsequent offenses: Class D felony, 1-5 years imprisonment, fine of up to $10,000.
Cultivation of 5 plants or more
- First offense: Class D felony, 1-5 years imprisonment, fine of up to $10,000
- Second or subsequent offenses: Class C felony, 5-10 years imprisonment, fine of up to $10,000
Kentucky public consumption laws
It is illegal to consume cannabis in public in Kentucky. Those found in possession of less than eight ounces of cannabis may be charged with a misdemeanor. The resulting punishment is up to 45 days in prison, and/or a fine of up to $250.
Individuals found with paraphernalia, such as vaping devices, may also be charged with a misdemeanor. The punishment is up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $500.
Kentucky cannabis DUI laws
Driving under the influence of a controlled substance is illegal in Kentucky. Drivers in Kentucky have implied consent to one or more tests of blood, breath, urine, or a combination thereof. Refusal to submit to a test will result in driver’s license suspension.
The penalties for DUI are outlined in Kentucky statute Chapter 189A:
- First offense: Mandatory 48 hours up to 30 days in jail, $200 to $500 fine, or both. The judge may recommend community labor in lieu of jail time or a fine.
- Second offense (within five years): Mandatory seven days up to six months in jail, $350 to $500 fine, and mandatory 10 days to six months of community labor.
- Third offense: Mandatory 30 days up to 12 months in jail, $500 to $1,000 fine, and a mandatory 10 days to 12 months of community labor.
- Fourth and subsequent offenses (within five years): Punishable as a Class D felony with mandatory 240 days’ imprisonment.
All DUI charges are also subject to a license suspension and enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program.
Kentucky cannabis testing regulations
Kentucky now has hemp testing facilities. State testing regulations pertain to hemp, not cannabis, and are focused on testing crops to ensure THC levels meet state limits.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in Kentucky
Can medical patients grow in Kentucky?
No. Cultivation of cannabis and hemp is illegal in Kentucky.
Is Kentucky a medical state?
Patients can acquire CBD for therapeutic purposes or participate in FDA-approved medical marijuana trials, but cannot access medical marijuana from dispensaries.
How can I access CBD for medical purposes in Kentucky?
Under SB 124, a patient can access CBD by obtaining a written order for CBD from an eligible physician. Hemp-derived CBD is also available for retail in Kentucky.
Are there any limits on qualifying conditions in Kentucky?
No. SB 124 does not place any limitations on qualifying conditions to access CBD for medical purposes.
Is broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD with more than 0.3% THC content, legal in Kentucky?
Only hemp-derived CBD, CBD prescription medicine, or cannabinoid drugs approved for use in a clinical trial are legal under SB 124. Products with trace amounts of other cannabinoids, such as THC, CBG, or CBN, are not legal.
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Post last updated Sept. 7, 2020