There are 33 states plus D.C. that allow MMJ. Eleven of them, and Washington, D.C., permit recreational cannabis. If you were to guess the next state to join this group, most people would not answer ‘Kentucky.’ It is traditionally a conservative state, and it appeared as if the potential for medical marijuana was remote.
However, a recent attempt to legalize weed was gaining traction before the Coronavirus put the world on hold. It was the culmination of several years of efforts, and cannabis advocates in Kentucky are now agonizingly close to achieving an initial goal.
The state was one of the first to cultivate hemp for fiber in 1775. The crop remained popular in Kentucky until the 1900s, long after other states banned it. In April 2014, Governor Beshear signed a law that allowed patients to use CBD with a physician’s recommendation. Such individuals could only use the non-intoxicating cannabinoid under clinical trials supervised by the University of Kentucky. You can learn more about CBD oil in Kentucky by clicking on the link.
In 2015, Senate Bill 40 and House Bill 3 proposed the establishment of an MMJ framework in the state. However, neither bill made it out of committee. Organizations such as the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the National Marijuana Initiative claimed credit for this outcome. They both vowed to fight future bills legalizing the herb.
The future seemed bleak, but suddenly, a new bill came out and changed everything. It gave hope for cannabis advocates in the state. While you can’t yet get an MMJ card in Kentucky, we outline what could happen to cannabis in the state in this guide.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Kentucky
At present, there is no way to get a medical marijuana card in Kentucky, though things may change soon.
House Bill 136 is an MMJ bill designed to establish a framework for the herb in Kentucky. On February 20, 2020, it passed by 65 votes to 30. It was the first time that the full House ever took up an MMJ bill in the state. It seems like a standard piece of legislation that places restrictions on who can have MMJ, and where one can use it.
HB 136 will require the Department for Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Control to implement and regulate the rules. This includes determining qualifying patients and designated caregivers. The Department would also establish certain protections for anyone with an MMJ card in Kentucky. The bill has significant Senate support. At 116 pages, it is relatively short by cannabis legislation standards. For reference, the Illinois version is around 600 pages.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the Senate had to focus their efforts on the state’s response to the virus. It adjourned for the year in April, and we are unlikely to hear more on the matter until the end of 2020, at least. A poll taken in February 2020 showed that an incredible 90% of Kentuckians supported medical marijuana. Therefore, this wave of public support could help push House Bill 136 through.
What Does House Bill 136 Say About Applying For MMJ?
There isn’t much information regarding whether patients could apply online. However, HB 136 does say that you can only use a doctor with whom you have a ‘bonafide practitioner-patient relationship.’ This means that in theory, you can’t walk in off the street and gain a physician’s approval.
As is standard in other states, Kentucky MMJ applicants must schedule a consultation with a doctor. According to HB 136, medical professionals such as dentists, optometrists, and podiatrists are not allowed to prescribe or recommend medical marijuana to patients.
The doctor must also consult with the patient regarding the potential therapeutic aid of cannabis. They also need to advise the patient relating to the possible interactions between marijuana and other drugs they are using.
Details on whether patients must apply using a paper form, or whether they can apply online are not precise. It seems likely that at first, Kentucky may take an ‘old school’ approach. The expectation is that the time it takes to apply for an MMJ card will be broadly in line with other states when the program settles. Initially, however, applicants should expect long delays.
What Are the Kentucky Medical Marijuana Costs?
There is no information at present as to how much it will cost to apply for an MMJ card. Patients must also take into account the cost of a physician’s recommendation. In other states, this can range from $150 to $300. It seems likely that the card will last for a year. At that point, you would have to reapply and see a doctor for another certification. Again, none of this is confirmed.
What Conditions Qualify for a Medical Marijuana Card in Kentucky?
Remember, House Bill 136 is far from complete. A panel of 13 people (Eight doctors, four public advocates, and a pharmacist) will determine the qualifying medical conditions. At present, the list of qualifying conditions will likely include:
- Chronic pain
It remains to be seen whether any prospective Kentucky MMJ program would have extremely restrictive conditions. The likely answer is ‘yes.’
Other Information on the Kentucky Medical Marijuana License Process
At present, all information relating to a medical marijuana program in Kentucky is open to interpretation. When lawmakers return to discuss HB 136, the existing bill still faces stiff opposition. It will likely have several changes before it has any potential of becoming law. Therefore, existing details are NOT set in stone. Nonetheless, we tried to glean some additional information from what we currently know.
What Kind of Cannabis Can I Purchase?
The current version of HB 136 does not permit the smoking of medical marijuana. It also bans vaping products for MMJ patients aged 20 and under. Patients can likely buy oils, tinctures, edibles, and topicals. However, the legislation doesn’t prohibit cannabis flower in itself. Patients could buy it from a dispensary, and convert it into any other digestible form, apart from smoking.
Where Can I Purchase MMJ in Kentucky?
The bill makes provision for at least 25 medical marijuana dispensaries.
What Are the Penalties for Illegal Marijuana Use in Kentucky?
At present, possession of any amount of cannabis is a misdemeanor offense. You could receive a $250 fine and up to 45 days in prison. The possession of more than eight ounces is a felony, and you could receive a five-year jail term. This also applies if it is your second minor offense. The sale of fewer than eight ounces is a misdemeanor and carries a possible $500 fine and up to a year in jail. If caught selling a more significant amount, it is a felony offense.
Where Can I Use My MMJ?
Patients can only use their cannabis in a private residence.
Will Kentucky Have Reciprocity with Other States?
It seems extremely unlikely that MMJ patients from other states will have the ability to use cannabis in Kentucky.
Does HB 136 Say Anything Else About the Program?
There is a lot of information contained within the 116 pages. Much of it is legalese that doesn’t concern most people. However, if a patient passes away, their family must return all remaining cannabis products to the dispensary within ten days of their death.
Also, the state’s law enforcement can legally access marijuana sales data from licensed dispensaries. Kentucky hospitals must report instances where an MMJ patient is diagnosed with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS).
What Is the Situation with Cultivation Licenses?
First of all, we do not anticipate that the Kentucky MMJ program will allow patients to grow cannabis at home. Those who seek a ‘cultivation’ license can only produce the raw materials. HB 136 assigns four Tiers of cultivation license:
- I: Can grow in a facility of up to 2,500 square feet.
- II: Can grow in a facility of up to 10,000 square feet.
- III: The limit is 25,000 square feet.
- IV: The limit is 50,000 square feet.
The state must approve a minimum of 15 cultivator licenses within a year of the bill taking effect.
The state of Kentucky has made terrific progress in the cannabis debate. Even bringing a bill this far is well beyond what most people thought possible just a few years ago. However, residents of the state will likely have to wait a long time before MMJ becomes a reality.
Even though there is serious discussion around HB 136, it is not likely to pass in its current form. Expect intense debate from both sides when the issue is finally reopened. Even if it succeeds, the Kentucky MMJ program will be among the strictest in the nation. However, for those in dire need, it is better than nothing, which is what they have right now.