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Kentucky General Assembly passes two bills improving hemp pilot program

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

Last week, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner, Ryan Quarles, sent a letter to Industrial Hemp Pilot Program Participants regarding two bills that passed during the 2017 regular session. These bills are said to have a lasting, positive impact on Kentucky’s hemp growers and processors.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) worked closely with leaders in the General Assembly to craft and pass this legislation, which Quarles and KDA staff believe will provide a significant boost for efforts to make Kentucky the national leader in industrial hemp production. We’ve provided a brief overview of each bill below.


House Bill 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.)

Learn more about HB 333 as introduced here:

Fortunately, due largely to the concern expressed by Kentucky hemp pilot program participants and advocates, this language has since been altered to protect and expand CBD hemp protection within the state. According to Commissioner Quarles, the bill removes any remaining doubt that 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 now has 12 days to sign or veto the bill. Click here to read an unofficial copy of HR 333.


Senate Bill 218

KY SB 218 revised legal framework enacted by the Kentucky General Assembly Senate Bill 50 in 2013, and aligns the state law with Section 7606 the 2014 Farm Bill. In a recent press release, Quarles described the bill as “a product of six months of close collaboration and consensus-building with the Kentucky State Police and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.” It passed early last month, and the law immediately took effect after Governor Bevin signed it on March 20, 2017. Click here to read an unofficial copy of SB 218.


We will continue to provide updates regarding state and federal hemp legislation. Congressman James Comer is expected to introduce the Industrial Hemp Farming Act (2017) early this month.

Click here to download the original letter from Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

Click on the links below to learn more about Kentucky hemp legislation:

January 8th, 2013 - Kentucky hemp bill SB 50 introduced in Senate

February 14th, 2013 - Kentucky hemp bill SB 50 passes in Senate, goes to House

February 15, 2013 - Kentucky hemp bill SB 50 passes in House, goes to Governor

April 7, 2013 - Kentucky hemp bill SB 50 becomes law without Governor's signature

February 7, 2014 - Farm Bill legalizes hemp production for research purposes

April 5, 2014 - Kentucky hemp bill SB 50 becomes law under new Farm Bill

March 6, 2017 - Kentucky bill could expand hemp pilot program

March 7, 2017 - Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Quarles praises legislature's approval of hemp bill

April 3, 2017 - Kentucky General Assembly passes two bills improving hemp pilot program

December 20, 2018 - Hemp gets the green light; now federally legal in the U.S.

December 27, 2018 - Kentucky becomes first state to request USDA approval of hemp program

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