April 10, 2023 11:00 am ETEstimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Kentucky legalized medical cannabis! That’s right—medical cannabis is legal in the state of Kentucky, making the Bluegrass State the 38th state in the nation to go green supporting positive cannabis reform. What does this mean for people living in Kentucky? Let’s take a closer look at the Bluegrass State. As of 2021, an estimated 4.59 million people called Kentucky home—4.59 million people who didn’t previously have legal access to medical cannabis.
Kentucky is famous for a few things. The historic running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of them. This event draws thousands of spectators to the state and even more to television with their eyes on Louisville. Speaking of Louisville, let’s not forget the legendary Louisville Slugger baseball bats. This is where they are made. After some horse racing and baseball bats, you can kick off a tour of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail from Louisville that showcases the state’s superior bourbon collection. There’s also lots of bluegrass in the state—not just the music but fields of grass across the state that display beautiful blue flowers.
If the ornamental grass doesn’t excite you any, then perhaps some Kentucky Bluegrass music might do the trick. The state is home to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. After taking all of this in, you may have worked up an appetite. Kentucky is also famous for Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken, where you might want to stop and see what made Gov. Ruby Laffoon award Mr. Sanders with the title of Kentucky Colonel back in 1935. I’ll give you a hint, “Kentucky Fried.” Now that we have a better feel for the state of Kentucky, let’s take a look at what legal access to medical cannabis means for Kentuckians.
Kentucky Green Grass
Legal access to medical cannabis in Kentucky is huge. It means that nearly 5 million people who call the state home now share some of the same freedoms that fellow Americans in 38 other states have. Before we explore medical cannabis in Kentucky, let’s look at current laws regarding cannabis possession, sale/distribution, and cultivation. Medical cannabis may be legal, but without being a medical cannabis patient, sadly, you could find yourself in quite a bit of trouble over a plant.
Being caught in possession of less than 8 ounces of cannabis in Kentucky carries a misdemeanor charge that comes with 45 days in jail and a max fine of $250. Sale/trafficking/distribution of cannabis in Kentucky of less than 8 ounces is a misdemeanor that carries one year of incarceration and a max fine of $500. Growing some green in the bluegrass state can land you in a heap of trouble. Cultivation of five cannabis plants or less is a misdemeanor charge that carries one year of incarceration and a max fine of $500. Should you get caught twice for any of this, the charges become harsher.
Not long ago, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear legalized medical cannabis. But did he? At 4:18 pm on Nov 22nd, 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear made a post on Twitter saying:
“90% of Kentuckians support legalizing medical cannabis, yet the legislature has repeatedly failed to do it. Today I took action, signing an executive order allowing those suffering from certain medical conditions to possess and use small amounts of medical cannabis on Jan. 1.”
Once you had a note from your doctor recommending cannabis, you could risk it and try to buy some out of state. Residents had to drive across state lines to buy cannabis from a legal recreational market like Missouri or Illinois or take the money-saving trip to Michigan to get cannabis. It still wasn’t legal. If caught back in Kentucky, you would still be arrested, have your weed taken, go to jail, have to bond out, and go to court, where you may or may not win your case. Wow, how confusing. It’s almost as if people in Kentucky are being baited, and I’m not talking about being rubbed the right way. Getting caught with cannabis in Kentucky doesn’t come with a happy ending. It comes with legal turmoil. But that has all changed—or has it?
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What Medical Cannabis Legalization Means for Kentucky
The grass isn’t always greener when it comes to cannabis legalization. Many people in Kentucky, of the 90% that support legal access to medical cannabis, were hoping they could finally smoke a joint without the fear of legal repercussions if they were caught.
NOPE, that is not the case. Rep. Jason Nemes made it clear that this was a strict medical cannabis program saying, “This is a no smoke bill, no self-grow and takes a bonafide relationship between the patient and the doctor or the nurse practitioner.” Medical cannabis in Kentucky is confusing because of none other than state lawmakers. Some of them can’t seem to get their story straight. Rep. Daniel Grossberg shows the lack of understanding this aging government body has, saying:
“Many people continue to oppose the legalization of medical marijuana due to misconceptions and misinformation. Some worry it will lead to increased drug abuse or that it will be a gateway drug. However, the reality is that medical marijuana has been legalized in over 30 states, and in those states, opioid use has decreased not increased.”
Here’s a breakdown of the current medical cannabis laws in Kentucky:
In order to gain access to cannabis, residents need a recommendation from an advanced nurse practitioner or a doctor.
Patients must have a qualifying condition such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, severe pain, chronic nausea, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other medical condition deemed appropriate by the Kentucky Center for Cannabis.
Smoking cannabis is illegal, but patients with still be allowed legal access to raw cannabis so that it can be vaporized.
No form of home cultivation is allowed.
Patients are only allowed to have a 10-day supply of cannabis in their possession and a 30-day supply at their residence.
Medical cannabis recommendations will have to be renewed every 60 days.
THC flower has a 35% THC cap.
Concentrates have a 70% THC cap.
Edibles are not allowed to be stronger than 10 milligrams per serving.
Medical cannabis patients do not have to pay excise or sales tax.
Oversight of regulations for business licensing fall to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Welcome to the legal side of cannabis, Kentucky! Hopefully, in the months and years to come, the program will evolve to truly embrace all that cannabis has to offer patients and consumers alike.
Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur, and activist that fights to end prohibition globally for a better future for all. Ashley has a passion for sharing education pertaining to the goddess plant known as cannabis. She believes that a single seed can tip the scales and that together through education we can end the stigma that is preventing cannabis from flowering to its full potential globally.
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