Kentucky Legislature fails to reform marijuana laws in 2018

Last update: November 8, 2018


The 2018 legislative session featured a great deal of talk about marijuana policy reforms, but the legislature adjourned in April without taking any action. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes got involved with the medical cannabis effort in late 2017, when she joined a working group with legislators and advocates to help advance the issue, and U.S. Senator Rand Paul added his support for the effort in March. Despite these strong endorsements, and the best efforts of patients and advocates, medical cannabis bills did not receive a vote in the House or Senate.

Kentucky voters elected Matt Bevin as governor in 2015 after he expressed support for medical cannabis on the campaign trail. Bevin acknowledged, “there is unequivocal medical evidence” that medical cannabis is beneficial, while his opponent was dismissive. Since being elected, he has not shown leadership on the issue. However, at a public forum in August 2018, Bevin reiterated his support for the issue. When that bill hits my desk, I will sign that,” he reportedly said.

On August 24, 2018, Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) and Rep. Diane St. Onge (R-Fort Wright) presented their ideas for draft legislation to the Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations. Rep. Nemes, who intends to sponsor the medical cannabis bill, confidently predicted that it will pass the legislature in 2019.

If you or a loved one suffer from a debilitating illness and could benefit from the use of medical cannabis, or if you’re a medical professional, a law enforcement official, a clergy member, or a member of the legal community, please email to see how you can be of special help in advocating for medical cannabis in Kentucky. Please include your address or nine-digit ZIP code.

Republican Senate Caucus Chairman advocates for bill to end marijuana prohibition in Kentucky


In November 2017, Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Dan Seum announced that he would sponsor a bill to regulate and tax marijuana. His bill, SB 80, did not receive a hearing or a vote in 2018.

In September, Gov. Matt Bevin said marijuana legalization and regulation “is not going to happen while I’m governor.”

The legislature has declined to consider previous bills on this subject. In January 2017, Sen. Perry Clark introduced SB 76, a bill that would have ended marijuana prohibition for adults in the commonwealth and created a regulated and taxed system. The bill did not receive a hearing or a vote.

 Lawmakers pass, governor signs limited CBD bill 


On Thursday, April 10, 2014, Kentucky then-Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law a proposal that was intended to allow patients to use cannabidiol (“CBD,” a non-psychoactive component of marijuana) if directed by a physician. The new law went into effect immediately with his signature, but it is extremely unlikely it will actually result in patients being able to access CBD unless it is revised by the legislature. Unfortunately, the legislation excludes the vast majority of patients who could benefit from medical marijuana.

For more information on this law, please see our summary of SB 124.

 ACLU study shows Kentucky's harsh marijuana laws result in racially disproportionate arrest rates


A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Kentucky are six times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

Please write to your legislators and ask them to stop arresting people for possessing marijuana.