Adult-use and medical cannabis are illegal in Kentucky. Several bills have been introduced to decriminalize the plant and create a medical cannabis program, but all have failed. In June 2022 the Governor created a Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to determine a path forward for medical legalization.
Possession, growing, and selling cannabis are all harshly punished in Kentucky. Possession of up to 8 oz is a misdemeanor with up to 45 days in jail and a $250 fine. If you have more than 8 oz of cannabis in your possession, Kentucky treats that as evidence of drug trafficking.
Selling less than 8 oz is a misdemeanor charge with up to a year in jail and a $500 fine, but having over 8 oz is a felony charge and you can face up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Growing less than five plants is a misdemeanor charge, but having repeat charges for cultivation or growing more than five plants is a felony charge. You can even face jail time for carrying cannabis paraphernalia like bongs.
Some local jurisdictions like Louisville have adopted measures to lower penalties for small-time cannabis crimes.
How do people in Kentucky view cannabis?
Several bills have been introduced as far back as 2015, and more recently in 2021 and 2022 to create a legal medical or adult-use program in Kentucky, but all have failed.
While many people in Kentucky understand the medicinal value of the plant, the economic potential of the legal market, or participate in the legacy market, there is also much opposition to legalization.
The laws against cannabis are unequally enforced, with Black Kentucky residents nearly 10 times more likely to be arrested and charged with cannabis-related crimes. In certain counties, Black residents are up to 14 times more likely to face cannabis charges. In 2020, Kentucky ranked second in the US for the largest racial disparities in cannabis possession arrests, second only to Montana.
Kentucky has a long history of growing industrial hemp dating back to the 1700s. In the early 20th century, a majority of the hemp grown in the US was from Kentucky. This was effectively ended by the time the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 came around but today the industrial hemp industry is again taking root in Kentucky.
Does Kentucky have a medical cannabis program?
Despite overwhelming support from residents (90% of adults support medical cannabis), Kentucky does not have a medical marijuana program. In March 2022, a medical cannabis bill was passed in the state House but failed in the Senate. This was the second time the bill was introduced and the second time it passed in the House and failed in the Senate.
The bill would have created a restrictive program that didn’t allow home grow or smoking but recognized several qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy and seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, chronic nausea and cyclical vomiting, and chronic, severe, intractable, or debilitating pain.
After the bill failed, the Governor of Kentucky created a Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee with 17 members to determine a path forward to get medical cannabis to his constituents. The Governor said he is considering an executive order to create a medical cannabis program, but it is unclear if he has the legal authority to do that.
CBD is legal in Kentucky as long as it comes from the hemp plant and contains less than 0.3% THC. You can find CBD products at hemp stores across the state.
Kentucky legalized CBD before it was federally legal, creating access for medical patients back in 2014.
Can you grow your own weed?
No, you can’t grow weed plants in Kentucky. Farmers who are licensed through the state can cultivate hemp plants, but there is no home growing.
Visiting Kentucky – can you buy or bring marijuana products?
Don’t bring cannabis products into Kentucky and don’t expect to legally be able to buy any. Crossing state lines with cannabis is illegal in the US.
Since Kentucky is still a prohibition state, the only way to get THC products is through the legacy market (also referred to as the black market or the illegal market.) While cannabis lovers have been purchasing products from the black market for decades, these are untested and unregulated products. Approach with caution and consume them at your own risk.
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