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 others states where marijuana is illegal.
The state of Kentucky is positioning itself to become the nation’s largest producer of industrial hemp, in anticipation of federal policy reform to allow for commercial production of the crop. So far in 2015 more than 922 acres of industrial hemp have been planted – a sharp increase from 33 acres in 2014. Kentucky has also attracted 24 hemp processors who will play a key role in the future domestic hemp industry by developing finished goods from the crop.
Recreational Marijuana in Kentucky
Recreational marijuana is illegal in Kentucky however there are no minimum mandatory sentences for marijuana possession or sale. Possession of less than 8 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 8 ounces as a first offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a 1-year jail term and $500 in fines.
Subsequent offenses of selling the same quantity and sale of more than 8 ounces of recreational marijuana are charged as felonies and punishable by 1 to 10 years in jail with up to $10,000 in fines.
Conditional release can be allowed for first time offenders. They can also get alternative or diversion sentencing.
Medical Marijuana in Kentucky
Medical marijuana is illegal in Kentucky, however the state has passed a medical CBD bill. Kentucky’s CBD law, passed in 2014, authorizes CBD oil to be excluded from the definition of marijuana, and 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 the legislation or adjourned without taking action. Still, the legislators’ continuing efforts to present these bills leave activists hopeful that soon one will gain enough support to pass.
Consumption of CBD from Hemp Oil in Kentucky
While medical marijuana and cannabis oil remains illegal in Kentucky, patients can still legally purchase and consume CBD oil that is derived from hemp. Consumption of CBD hemp oil is federally legal, as CBD hemp oil falls under the same importation and commerce laws as other hemp products. The state of Vermont has no further policy specifically related to CBD hemp oil.
Cultivation of Cannabis in Kentucky
Senate Bill 50 was passed in 2013, which made cultivation of industrial hemp legal for state-sponsored research. The Bill imposes regulations for licensed production of industrial hemp.
Currently, there are over 121 hemp growers across the state of Kentucky and seven universities that are researching growth, process and marketing of hemp for oil, food, fiber, manufacturing, textiles, paper and more. Additionally, there are 24 hemp processors operating on almost a thousand acres of land.
James Comer, the Agriculture Commissioner of Kentucky predicts that the number of processors and acres will multiply to hundreds of processors and thousands of acres in the next few years. Both Comer and the new agriculture commissioner candidates have said that there will be strong support to expand Kentucky’s hemp program.
Unlicensed cultivation is still a serious crime in the state. Cultivation of less than 5 plants first-time offense is charged as a misdemeanor with 1-year imprisonment and $500 in fines. The subsequent offense is charged as felony with 1 year to 5 years in jail with $10,000 in fines. The first offense of cultivating 5 plants or more is a felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in jail with $10,000 in fines. The subsequent offense is also charged as felony with 5 to 10 years in jail with $10,000 in fines.
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