Growing Marijuana in Kentucky – KY Cannabis State Laws (2021)

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Despite the demise of House Bill 136 last year which was stopped in its tracks in the Senate, the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Jason Nemes, has filed another medical marijuana bill earlier this month.

Oddly enough, the Republican-sponsored bill won’t have conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana. Instead, it will leave the decision to the physician. While it allows patients to buy up to a 30-day supply of cannabis, an amount that will be determined by the regulatory agency, the bill will still not allow home cultivation. Nemes previously clarified that he was, in fact, against recreational marijuana.

Democrats likewise filed their own version for this year. Sponsored by Reps. Attica Scott, Lisa Willner and Nima Kulkarni, HB 461 while Rep. Rachel Roberts, of Campbell County, recently filed HB 467. Roberts said that her bill will seek to bring in new tax revenues, expunge criminal records for those that have been convicted of weed-related misdemeanors, and give those who suffer from chronic medical conditions access to effective cannabis medication.

These may signal that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are serious about legalizing medical marijuana this year. But for now, what exactly is allowed in Kentucky?

This article was reviewed and updated for 2021.

Overview of Kentucky Marijuana Laws

Marijuana, whether medical or recreational, is still illegal in Kentucky. 

  • Possession – Possession of 8 ounces or less for personal use is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in prison and a maximum fine of $250.
  • Sale – The offense of selling under 8 ounces of marijuana for the first time is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500. However, second and subsequent offenses for selling the same amount is a Class D felony.
    • 8 ounces to less than 5 lbs – Class D felony punishable by 1 to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of $1000 to $10,000. Second or subsequent offenses become Class C felonies. 
    • Selling within 1,000 yards of a school or park – Class D felony
    • 5 lbs or more, or selling to a minor – Class C felony punishable by 5 to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $1000 to $10,000. Subsequent violations become Class B felonies punishable by 10 to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $1000 to $10,000. 
  • Cultivation – Growing less than 5 plants is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a maximum fine of $500. However, subsequent offenses become Class D felonies.
    • More than 5 plants – Class D felony. Subsequent offenses get elevated to a Class C.

History of Marijuana in Kentucky

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Kentucky has a long history with cannabis, specifically hemp, which made its way to Danville as early as 1775. Like Indiana, the state was one of the biggest hemp producers during WW2 but as the demand for hemp fiber waned after the war, some growers shifted to marijuana cultivation. The scale of illegal cannabis cultivation became so huge that one such trafficking ring named the “Cornbread Mafia” became responsible for creating the largest domestic marijuana production operation in United States history.

Being a state in the Bible Belt, marijuana reform had a difficult time getting a foothold in Kentucky prior to the 2000s. This was not surprising since even hemp had a hard time coming back after being banned under cannabis federally. The push for legalization of medical marijuana only picked up around 2014 when Gov. Steve Beshear signed a law allowing patients to legally use CBD with their physician’s recommendation, under clinical trials at the University of Kentucky for the treatment of epilepsy. However, the sale and production of CBD remained illegal. 

The following year, House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 40 were proposed. SB 40 was particularly significant since it contained a provision for medical cannabis cultivation. However, the bills might have come a bit too early at a time when support for marijuana wasn’t as widespread as it is now and both bills eventually failed to pass out of committee. In fact, the anti-marijuana group National Marijuana Initiative and the Kentucky Baptist Convention even took credit for shooting down the bill and warned that they would be opposing all other pro-marijuana legislation in the future. 

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Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Kentucky

How do Kentucky marijuana laws compare with those in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.

FAQs about marijuana legalization in Kentucky

Is recreational marijuana legal in Kentucky?

No, adult-use marijuana is still illegal in Kentucky.

How much marijuana can I grow in Kentucky for recreational purposes?

None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Kentucky.

Is medical marijuana legal in Kentucky?

Not yet. Only low-THC cannabis oil is allowed at present.

How much marijuana can I grow in Kentucky for medical purposes?

None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is not allowed in Kentucky.

What efforts are being made to legalize marijuana in Kentucky?

Marijuana supporters are eagerly anticipating the progress of House Bill 136 in the Senate. If it gets passed, the medical marijuana bill is expected to set a precedent for marijuana policy in the region.

Where can I grow marijuana in Kentucky?

Residents are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Kentucky.

How old do I need to be to grow marijuana in Kentucky?

Marijuana is completely illegal in Kentucky and nobody is allowed to cultivate it.

Conclusion

It is unfortunate to see that home cultivation was left out of Rep. Nemes’ latest bill as opposed to his previous one. It’s possible that it was intentionally left out so it won’t cut into the state’s marijuana industry. However, it is encouraging to see that even Republican lawmakers are already open to the idea of legalization, and the sooner patients get their much-needed marijuana medication, the better.

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