Kentucky Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Kentucky?
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Kentucky Law: 

StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD
KentuckyNo*Restricted ProductsYes

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Kentucky?

No. While Kentucky has had a lengthy history of producing and cultivating industrial hemp since the mid 18th century, recreational cannabis uses are illegal in Kentucky. 

Surprisingly, local jurisdictions have progressively enacted decriminalization measures for small amounts of cannabis possession. Those municipalities include Jefferson County; which won’t file a charge under 1 oz or less of cannabis and Louisville; which will only fine a citizen for up to ½ oz

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Kentucky?

Yes and No. Full-strength medical marijuana is still illegal in Kentucky. 

Since 2015 there are have been multiple attempts to legalize full-strength medical marijuana for patients with specific ailments and a doctor’s prescription. As of 2020, House Bill 136 passed but further legislation has been stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Although, CBD products have been legal for specific patients with a doctor’s recommendation since Gov. Beshear signed a law in 2014. Unfortunately, the law did not dictate a legal way for patients to purchase or the state to sell CBD products until 2018. 

Are CBD products legal in Kentucky? 

Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States; as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

Kentucky Cannabis Timeline:

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth”.) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins”.

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2014: CBD becomes a lawful medication for Kentucky epilepsy patients. Gov. Beshear signed a law allowing Kentucky epilepsy patients under a physician’s recommendation, the ability to use CBD products. Unfortunately, there were no amendments allowing the sale or purchase of CBD products in the state.

2015: Failed Full Strength Medical Marijuana legalization for Kentucky patients. House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 40 failed to pass out of their committee due to intensive anti-cannabis lobbying.

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.

2020: Kentucky Medical Marijuana House Bill 136, passed but further legislation has been stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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