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After nearly fifty years of prohibition in the United States, hemp production is finally legal. The 2014 Farm Bill paved the way for the return of hemp production for research and development, which led to the passing of the Hemp Farming Act included in the 2018 Farm Bill. The Hemp Farming Act, secured by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), removed hemp (varieties of Cannabis Sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabidiol [THC] concentration of 0.3 or less on a dry weight basis) from the list of controlled substances.


Kentucky Congressmen have been fighting to bring industrial hemp back to American farmers since 2012.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

first introduced the issue to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2011. The year following, former Kentucky Agriculture

Commissioner (now Congressman), James Comer, announced that industrial hemp would be his top priority in the next legislative 

session. Kentucky was one of the first states to pass a hemp bill that would set the framework for future legalization. Following the passing of the 2014 Farm bill, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture launched the Industrial Hemp Research Program.


Click on the buttons below to learn more about Kentucky or federal hemp legislation. 


Kentucky has set in place some of the most advanced pieces of legislation protecting the industrial hemp production taking place under the 2018 Farm Bill. As one of the first states to introduce hemp legislation, Kentucky has led the way for the crop's comeback on both a state and federal level. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture oversees all hemp production in the state under the Hemp Pilot Program, through which growers and processors must receive a license to handle raw hemp materials.


Click on the links included in the timeline below to learn more about the progress of Kentucky hemp legislation. 

KY Senate Bill 50
April 7, 2013
KY Senate Bill 218
March 20, 2017
KY House Bill 333
April 10, 2017


KY House Bill 236
February 2, 2020

KY HB 236 aligns the Kentucky hemp program with federal law under the 2018 Farm Bill. It also allows processors the ability to transport hemp extract materials that may exceed the 0.3% THC threshold to other licensed Kentucky processors within the state, as long as those materials are remediated to fall within the 0.3% THC limit for final products. If a Kentucky processors wishes to send materials exceeding the 0.3% THC amount to another licensed processors, the sending processor must notify the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Hemp Staff within 24-hours of the exchange, along with information including: 

1. Date of the movement/transfer

2. The address of origin

3. The address of the destination

4. Any additional information required by the department. 

The bill was introduced on January 1, 2020 in the House, and was passed on February 4, 2020. Governor Beshear signed the bill into law on February 10, 2020.

KY HB 333

KY HB 333 is an effort to deal with the state’s growing opioid abuse problem. As introduced, the bill included a controversial provision which would require CBD (cannabidiol, or hemp extract) to be prescribed by a physician and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) Fortunately, due largely to the concern expressed by Kentucky hemp pilot program participants and advocates, this language was altered to protect and expand CBD hemp protection within the state.


According to Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, the bill removes any remaining doubt that cannabidiol (CBD) products derived from industrial hemp are legal, and not “marijuana” under state law. Here are following explanations from the letter regarding the subsections in HB 333 that concern industrial hemp-derived CBD and CBD products:


  • Subsections (a) and (b) are minor provisions that have already been signed into law through Senate Bill 218. Subsection (a) provides that a person holding a license from the KDA may possess living industrial hemp plants, viable seeds, and any part of the pant, including its leaf material and floral material. Subsection (b) provides that anyone in Kentucky, licensed by KDA or not, may posses industrial hemp materials other than living plants, viable seeds, leaf material and floral material.


  • Subsections (c) and (d) exempt from the definition of “marijuana” doctor-prescribed CBD treatments and FDA-approved clinical trials and expanded access programs.


  • Subsection (e) excludes from the definition of “marijuana” any “cannabidiol product derived from industrial hemp, as defined in KRS 260.850.” KRS 260.850, as amended by Senate Bill 218, borrows the definition of “industrial hemp” that currently appears in federal law: “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” 7 U.S.C. § 5940(b)(2). The result is that Subsection (e) excludes from the definition of “marijuana” any CBD product that was derived from industrial hemp as defined by federal law.


  • Subsection (f) excludes from “marijuana” any “cannabidiol product approved as a prescription medication by the United States Food and Drug Administration.” Quarles describes this provision as forward-looking, as there are currently no FDA-approved CBD prescription medications on the market, but anticipation that one or more such products will come forward within the next year or two. This subsection assures that these products are legal in the state of Kentucky.


The result of this legislation is that there are now six different circumstances - outlined in Subsections (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), and (f) - where a person possessing hemp materials or products can do so without violating the law’s general prohibition against the possession of “marijuana.” HB 333 received final passage in the House of Representatives on the evening of Thursday, March 30th. Governor Bevin signed the bill on April 7, 2017.

KY SB 218

KY SB 218 improves and expands the legal framework for the industrial hemp program which was originally outlined in Senate Bill 50. This bill aligns state regulations with the federal 2014 Farm Bill, and allows the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to modify the pilot program based on decisions made in Congress, rather than having to wait for the general assembly to come back into session to change it by statute. The legislation also replaces the old Hemp Commission with a new Industrial Hemp Advisory Board that will give advice and input to KDA, and charges the University of Kentucky's Regulatory Services laboratory with responsibility for THC testing.


In addition, the bill contains six law enforcement safeguards:


▪    Requires applicants to submit GPS coordinates for growing locations.


▪    Requires applicants to give written consent to entry by representatives of KDA, KSP and other law enforcement agencies.


▪    Requires annual criminal background checks.


▪    Imposes a 10-year program ban for any person convicted of a felony.


▪    Imposes a 10-year ban for any person convicted of a drug-related misdemeanor or violation.


▪   Imposes a 10-year program ban for any person convicted of any felony.

Senate Bill 218 passed in the House on March 7, 2017 by a 88-3 vote, and was signed by the governor on March 20, 2017.

KY SB 50

KY SB 50 was passed in the Kentucky General Assembly during the legislature's 2013 session and took effect in the summer of 2013. Its goal was to help Kentucky move to the forefront of industrial hemp production and commercialization of hemp products, and to create a regulatory framework for hemp production should the government lift its federal ban. See details below:


  • Called on the University of Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, as well as other Kentucky public universities, to conduct research on hemp planting, cultivation, and analysis on demonstration plots


  • Established the membership of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission

  • Directed the commission to establish and oversee a five-year hemp research program.

  • Provided that the commission shall work with the UK Center for Applied Energy Research to study the use of hemp in new energy technologies and work with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development to raise awareness of financial incentives for businesses that manufacture hemp products

  • Set up a fund to finance the administrative services of the commission and the industrial hemp research program

  • Charged the commission with establishing a program to license Kentucky hemp growers

  • Required the Kentucky State Police to perform background checks on producers who apply to grow industrial hemp

  • Set out record-keeping and filing requirements of industrial hemp growers, and establishes penalties for failing to comply

  • Affirmed that information on hemp grower applications is proprietary and is subject to inspection only under a court order


When Congress passed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), Kentucky began to operate under Section 7606 rather than Senate Bill 50. As federal legislation is introduced, Kentucky will adapt its law accordingly and purse an industry in accordance with the law. This is why Senate Bill 218 was crafted in introduced in early 2017. 


Hemp returned across the U.S. under the auspice of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed universities and state departments of agriculture to grow hemp for the purpose of research and development. Since then, further protection for legal hemp production has been secured by Kentucky Congressmen, including an amendment by U.S. Representative Thomas Massie and a provision secured by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the 2016 Omnibus Spending Bill. 

The most recent piece of federal hemp legislation, the Hemp Farming Act, was championed by Senator McConnell and removes hemp from the list of controlled substances, legalizing the crop nationwide. The measure was included in the 2018 Farm Bill and was signed by the President on December 20, 2018. Hemp production is now federally legal in the U.S.,

however, certain restrictions and regulations still apply to growers and processors. 

Click on the links included in the timeline below to learn more about the progress of federal hemp legislation. 

Farm Bill 2014
February 7, 2014
H. Amdt. 754
May 30, 2014
Omnibus Bill 2016
December 18, 2015


Farm Bill 2018
December 20, 2018
Farm Bill 18
The Agricultural Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) includes legislation -- championed by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- that
legalizes hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. It also gives states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp production, allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and makes hemp eligible for crop insurance. This measure builds upon the hemp pilot programs, which Senator McConnell secured in the 2014 Farm Bill.
While the 2018 Farm Bill legalizes hemp production, this does not mean that anyone can grow hemp. Hemp growers and processors will still be required to receive a license from a state department of agriculture in order to legally handle raw plant materials. The USDA will oversee production to ensure states are assigning license and regulating hemp production. 
The 2018 Farm Bill was passed by the U.S. Senate on December 11, 2018 and in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 12, 2018. The bill was signed into law by the President on December 20, 2018. 
Click here to review the hemp provision included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Omnibus Bill
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the language included in Section 763 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2016 (Omnibus Spending Bill) in December 2015, which prohibited any government funding from interfering with hemp crops being transported within the state, or across state lines through hemp pilot programs conducted in conjunction with the Farm Bill. See full amendment below: 

SEC. 763. None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be used—

(1) in contravention of section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (7 U.S.C. 5940); or

(2) to prohibit the transportation, processing, sale, or use of industrial hemp that is grown or cultivated in accordance with subsection section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, within or outside the State in which the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated.

H. Amdt. 754
On May 29, 2014, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced H. Amdt. 754 to amend H.R. 4660 - The FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act to prohibit the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Department Enforcement Agency (DEA) from using funds to interfere with Section 7606 "Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research" of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) sanctioned pilot programs. This following the unlawful seizure of hemp seeds for pilot projects earlier that month. The amendment passed 246 – 162. 

Farm Bill
The Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) was signed by the President on February 7, 2014. Section 7606 of the act, Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research, defines industrial hemp as distinct and authorizes institutions of higher education or state department's of agriculture in states that legalized hemp cultivation to conduct research and pilot programs. See full amendment below: 




(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (20 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.), chapter 81 of title 41, United States Code, or any other Federal law, an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001)) or a State department of agriculture may grow or cultivate industrial hemp if—


(1) the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research; and


(2) the growing or cultivating of industrial hemp is allowed under the laws of the State in which such institution of higher education or State department of agriculture is located and such research occurs.


    (b) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:


(1) AGRICULTURAL PILOT PROGRAM.—The term ‘‘agricultural pilot program’’ means a pilot pro- gram to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp—


    (A) in States that permit the growth or cultivation of industrial hemp under the laws of the State; and


    (B) in a manner that—


        (i) ensures that only institutions of higher education and State departments of agriculture are used to grow or                     cultivate industrial hemp;


       (ii) requires that sites used for growing or cultivating industrial hemp in a State be certified by, and registered                      with, the State department of agriculture; and


       (iii) authorizes State departments of agriculture to promulgate regulations to carry out the pilot program in the                  States in accordance with the purposes of this section.


(2) INDUSTRIAL HEMP.—The term ‘’industrial hemp’’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.


(3) STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.—The term ‘‘State department of agriculture’’ means the agency, commission, or department of a State government responsible for agriculture within the State.

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