kentucky marijuana laws 2020

Kentucky Marijuana Laws

Updated May 2020

Kentucky has historically not been open to cannabis legalization. It has yet to legalize medical marijuana or decriminalize marijuana possession; however, possession of small amounts and first-time offenses are dealt with relatively less harshly than other states where marijuana is illegal. Learn more about Kentucky marijuana laws below.

Recreational Marijuana in Kentucky

Is marijuana legal in Kentucky? No — recreational marijuana is illegal; however, there are no minimum mandatory sentences for marijuana possession or sale. Possession of less than eight ounces of recreational marijuana is charged as a Class B misdemeanor punishable by 45 days in jail with a $250 fine. Sale of less than eight ounces as a first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a one-year jail term and $500 in fines.

Subsequent offenses of selling the same quantity and sale of more than eight ounces of recreational marijuana are charged as felonies and punishable by one to 10 years in jail with up to $10,000 in fines.

Under Kentucky marijuana laws, conditional release can be allowed for first-time offenders. First-time marijuana offenders can also get alternative or diversion sentencing.

What Is Conditional Release?

Under Kentucky marijuana laws, first-time offenders are eligible for conditional release, which allows most individuals accused of first-time marijuana offenses in Kentucky to opt for probation instead of having their case go to trial. If the accused successfully completes probation without any slip-ups, then the charge will be wiped from their criminal record. This allows first-time offenders to not have any kind of lasting negative impact from a first-time marijuana possession charge.

Is Hash Legal in Kentucky?

Hash is an extremely concentrated and potent form of cannabis, coming directly from the resin found on the plant. Also known as hashish, hash has very strong psychoactive and euphoric effects. Hash is illegal under Kentucky marijuana laws, with the penalties for hash possession, sale, and distribution being identical to the penalties for marijuana flower.

Is Marijuana Concentrate Legal in Kentucky?

Marijuana concentrate is a product that features a very high concentration of cannabinoids, such as THC. Marijuana concentrate is cultivated by taking cannabis and removing all of the unneeded plant extracts and byproducts, resulting in a pure and potent form of marijuana. Marijuana concentrate is illegal and holds the same penalties for possession, sale, and distribution as marijuana.

Kentucky Marijuana Laws on Drugged Driving

In any state, it is illegal to drive a car or operate any other type of motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana use can negatively affect an individual’s motor skills and attention to detail, resulting in an impaired ability to drive. This can make anyone driving after using marijuana a danger to themselves, their passengers, and anyone they share the road with.

That is why drugged driving of any kind is against the law and is considered a criminal activity in the state of Kentucky. If you have recently used marijuana or any other type of illicit drug, avoid the road at all costs.

Can You Possess Marijuana Paraphernalia in Kentucky?

Marijuana paraphernalia refers to any product that aids users in consuming and inhaling cannabis. Some of the most common types of marijuana paraphernalia include bongs, pipes, rolling papers, and vaporizers. In Kentucky, the possession of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor that can result in a $100 fine and up to one year of jail time.

Tax Stamps for Marijuana in Kentucky

If anyone in the state of Kentucky has marijuana in their possession for any reason, they are required to mark the marijuana with tax stamps. Tax stamps are stamps issued by the state that must be affixed to any marijuana contraband, and failing to do so can result in a criminal charge and/or a fine.

A tax stamp costs $3.50 a gram for those in possession of 42.5 grams of marijuana or more, and $1,000 a plant for those who have five or more marijuana plants. Failure to do so will result in a fine that is twice the amount of the tax stamps fee you were supposed to pay, as well as a class C felony charge.

Medical Marijuana in Kentucky

Medical marijuana is illegal in Kentucky; however, the state has passed a medical bill in 2014 that permits the use of low-THC cannabis. Kentucky’s low-THC medical cannabis law authorizes low-THC oil to be excluded from the definition of marijuana, thereby legal for patients with intractable epilepsy who have a written recommendation from a physician.

Kentucky legislators did propose comprehensive medical marijuana bills in 2014, 2015, and 2016, but in all instances the legislature failed to pass or adjourned without taking action. In 2018, lawmakers briefly considered medical marijuana legislation but eventually decided to shelve it in committee. In February 2020, the Kentucky House of Representatives approved a medical marijuana bill with a 65-30 vote, but the Senate decided to not take it up before adjourning for the year in April. Still, the legislators’ continuing efforts to present these bills leave activists hopeful that soon one will gain enough support to pass.

The Local Decriminalization of Marijuana in Kentucky

There are two local jurisdictions in Kentucky that have enacted local measures and regulations to decriminalize marijuana.

  • In Jefferson County, the county attorney’s office allows individuals in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to avoid any kind of criminal prosecution, as long as marijuana possession is the primary charge.
  • In Louisville, a city council ordinance allows individuals to be in possession of up to one-half of an ounce of marijuana and face the lowest law enforcement priority.

Consumption of CBD from Hemp Oil in Kentucky

Hemp-derived CBD products are legal under Federal Law in the United States; however, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.

Cultivation of Cannabis in Kentucky

Under Kentucky marijuana law, the growing of marijuana plants remains illegal. Cultivation of fewer than five plants as a first-time offense is charged as a misdemeanor with one-year imprisonment and $500 in fines. The subsequent offense is charged as a felony with one year to five years in jail with $10,000 in fines. The first offense of cultivating five plants or more is a felony, punishable by one to five years in jail with $10,000 in fines. The subsequent offense is also charged as a felony with five to 10 years in jail with $10,000 in fines.

Kentucky is a nation-leading hemp producer. Senate Bill 50 was passed in 2013, which made the cultivation of industrial hemp legal for state-sponsored research. The bill imposed regulations for the licensed production of industrial hemp. According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, as of May 2020, there are more than 970 hemp growers that have obtained licenses.

Unlicensed cultivation of hemp is still a serious crime in the state. The penalties for growing hemp without a license are the same as those for illegally growing marijuana.

Legal Status of Other U.S. States

Stay up to date on the latest state legislation, referendums, and public opinion polls. Our Marijuana Legalization Map allows you to browse the current status of medical and recreational marijuana laws in other U.S. states and territories.



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House passes medical marijuana bill in first approval of its kind in Kentucky

Several bills in the 2020 session of the Kentucky General Assembly deal with the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana. Courier Journal

FRANKFORT — After a decade of failed attempts, the state House on Thursday passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky.

Following more than two hours of debate on the bill and more than a dozen floor amendments, House Bill 136 passed by a 65-30 vote.

All but two Democratic members of the House voted for the bill, as did a slight majority of the Republican members present.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where it faces an uphill climb in a chamber with a large conservative majority and led by President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, who has expressed skepticism about legalizing medical marijuana until further research on its effects has been published.

House Bill 136 would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis and set up a regulatory framework for patients to obtain it at approved dispensaries. The renamed Department of Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control would implement and regulate the new state program.

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Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, the main sponsor of the bill, said after a number of compromises to the legislation, it would be “the tightest medical marijuana law in the country.”

Among the compromises in the bill are its ban on smoking medical marijuana, a provision allowing counties to opt out of the medical marijuana program, and a prohibition on public usage and homegrown plants.

Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, spoke against the bill, saying it would be a slippery slope that could lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana in the near future and could send the wrong message to children.

“If you lift the tent up a little and let the nose in, it’s not going to stop,” Lee said.

Lee’s suggestions were seconded by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, who claimed that crime and homelessness have spiked in Colorado since that state legalized marijuana, which could soon befall Kentucky.

Rep. Cluster Howard, D-Jackson, who has sponsored a bill this session to legalize recreational marijuana, advocated for the bill’s passage, saying “we need to get out of the dark ages and vote for this bill.”

Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, who lost his right arm in a 1993 accident, emotionally recounted how he lost many of his friends to opioids. He said they played with him in a golf league for people with disabilities, and added that marijuana could be a much safer alternative medicine to treat chronic pain.

After the passage of his bill, Nemes told reporters that “We have momentum, but we’re not there yet.”

Stivers told reporters Thursday he believes the medical marijuana bill has a “narrow path” to passage in the Senate, though he and other Republicans are concerned about the lack of conclusive studies by federal entities such as the Food and Drug Administration.

“I think people are going to look at it and consider it,” he said.

Referencing Stivers’ common phrase that medical marijuana has a “narrow path” in the Senate, Nemes told reporters that “House Bill 136 is that narrow path.”

“I think a majority of his members will agree with it, and I’m going to ask (Stivers) to give us a vote,” Nemes said.

Responding to Republican critics who warned the bill was a slippery slope, Nemes said that “this bill is not about fun. This is about healing. This is about health.”

Nemes added that the passage of the bill through the House couldn’t have happened without the grassroots activism of medical marijuana advocates, saying he can’t go out in public without being thanked by strangers for sponsoring the bill.

“This bill is about love,” Nemes said. “These advocates are working their tails off because they love the people who will be helped by this. They love their spouses, they love their children.”

After a decade of failed attempts, the Kentucky House finally passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana by a 65-30 vote.