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CBD Oil in Kentucky: The Bluegrass State Turns Green

Janet Miller

Janet Miller

Last updated: November 22, 2019

Shutterstock / Daria_I

The 2017 Kentucky House Bill 333 established the legal status of the CBD, which allowed its consumption and retail trade. The cannabis extract should contain no more than 0.3% THC. Also, it should be derived only from industrial hemp.

CBD oil in Kentucky dates back to the founding of the United States. The first hemp plant was introduced into Kentucky in 1775, and the Bluegrass state became the epicenter of hemp production in the US. Output reached a high of 40,000 tons by 1850. Then came the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Then came the War on Drugs and cannabis Sativa (hemp plants) were classified as Controlled Substances, making them illegal. New laws and new attitudes have made hemp cultivation legal again in Kentucky. With legalization has come a renewed interest in products containing the essential oil of the hemp plant known as cannabidiol or CBD.

CBD Oil: An Explainer

CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it is a phytocannabinoid found in the male hemp plant (Cannabis Sativa). CBD oil is the form the substance takes when extracted from the plant material. It is then often mixed with or into other products like coconut oil to make it more palatable and bioavailable.

CBD is a close relative of another cannabinoid, THC, which is also present in marijuana plants and has intoxicating properties. CBD products, however, have no intoxicating properties. CBD does not make users high, although studies have shown it has other, potentially beneficial properties. People have taken hemp extract as an alternative treatment for things like:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Insomnia
  • Pain from inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Mild pain relief

Users should be aware, however, that cannabidiol is not approved by the FDA to treat any of these conditions. To date, the FDA has approved only one CBD-based medication – Epidiolex – to treat childhood epilepsy.

CBD is legal in Kentucky as long as it meets the legal requirements of both state and federal law. Those requirements state that to be legitimate all CBD plants and all CBD products must:

  • Have less than 0.3% THC content
  • Have been derived from hemp plants, not marijuana plants (illegal)

The 0.3% threshold was a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, but it did not legalize the growing of Cannabis Sativa plants. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 authorized the wide-scale, industrial production of hemp and also used the 0.3% limit.

Growers of hemp need to apply for a special permit from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Only licensed growers are allowed to grow, harvest, and process hemp materials. Without a license, growers could face the same penalties as marijuana growers.

Kentucky has come a long way since even hemp was outlawed. As late as 2017, the Kentucky state house was on the verge of passing House Bill 333 that would have prevented any medical use of cannabidiol unless a patient received special permission from a state doctor. The protests forced the bill to be rewritten to eliminate those barriers, making CBD products more widely-available.

No, medical marijuana is not legal in Kentucky. A bill introduced in 2018, House Bill 166 would have legalized medical use of cannabis in the state. The bill languished in committee, though, and has yet to be put to the vote, although it may pass this year. However, the continued efforts of legislators to submit these bills make activists hope that soon, one will receive sufficient support for adoption.

Medical or recreational marijuana is illegal in Kentucky. Neither is there a push to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. According to the marijuana laws in Kentucky, for first-time offenders, it can be allowed conditional release. Also, these offenders can get an alternative or diversion sentencing.

What About THC in Kentucky?

THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is an active ingredient in the marijuana (Cannabis Indica) plant. It has intoxicating properties and can cause feelings of anxiety, paranoia, or euphoria. THC is different from CBD as it bonds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, CB1, and CB2, which cause feelings of intoxication.

CBD does the opposite. Instead of interacting with CB1 and CB2, cannabidiol interacts with other signals in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). These interactions with other receptors of the ECS are what promote cannabidiol’s positive effects, as the ECS regulates functions like appetite, mood, pain relief, and stress response.

The DEA – and, by extension, the federal government – still considers THC-laden marijuana a Schedule I controlled substance making it illegal to use or sell. Eleven states in the US have legalized recreational marijuana, but Kentucky is not one of them. Despite some states allowing recreational marijuana use and commerce, it is still illegal to cross state lines or international borders with marijuana.

Can I Grow Hemp in Kentucky?

Shutterstock / Elenabsl

Yes, you can grow hemp in Kentucky. Farmers need to apply for an exclusive license from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to grow hemp for commercial use. Processing companies must also apply for a special processing/handling permit to be able to handle the plant. The number of licenses to both grow and process the crop has risen since the laws were relaxed.

As of this year, according to the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles, the cultivation and sales of processed hemp have resulted in:

  • Sales of processed hemp in the state have grown to over $57 million, which is up from $16 million in 2017
  • Only 16,000 acres were approved for growing hemp in 2017; that number grew to 50,000 in 2018
  • In 2017, only 210 farmers were approved to plant hemp; Quarles expects that number to grow to 1,047 in 2019
  • Licenses to handle and process hemp crops have also gone up to 210 this year, with more applications being accepted

Kentucky now sits in the top five hemp-producing states along with Colorado and Montana. The crop has been especially helpful to farmers. Tobacco replaced hemp, as the state’s #1 cash crop, after the latter was outlawed. But with tobacco use declining worldwide demand has also gone down, leaving farmers looking for an alternative.

Hemp has stepped in to fill the void. Given hemp’s long history in the state, it is no wonder that hemp has reemerged in popularity and importance. Two Kentucky politicians are also mostly responsible for getting hemp removed from Schedule I classification at the federal level.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, and Representative John Comer, representing Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District, were responsible for introducing and then passing the 2018 Hemp Farming Act. The 2018 law paved the way for commercial hemp cultivation, which is fueling the nation-wide craze around cannabidiol as a potential health product.

Can CBD Oil Be Made in Kentucky?

CBD oil is already being made in Kentucky. The Bluegrass State is home to several large hemp processing and manufacturing concerns, including the eponymous Bluegrass Hemp Oil. Besides, Bluegrass, other well-known names in CBD products production like MedTerra and CBD Hemp Oil, have facilities in the state.

There are also plans to build several new processing facilities in the state. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announced in July 2019 that an Indiana-based company, International Pharmaceutical Extracts, was planning on building a $6 million, 11,750 square foot facility in (where else?) Danville.

One Kentucky company, GenCanna, also announced plans to spend $40 million to expand its facility in Graves Country, adding another 80 jobs at the plant. GenCanna also recently developed, in association with scientists from the University of Kentucky, the world’s first zero-THC hemp plant. This discovery is a significant breakthrough for hemp growers everywhere.

Why Is It so Important?

The main reason is that CBD-only, female hemp plants could cross-breed with male plants, especially if they are grown outdoors, which a lot of them are. This cross-pollination could have disastrous results.

Female hemp plants that breed with male plants can reactivate dormant genes in the female – genes like those that produce THC instead of CBD. One male plant could destroy an entire crop of CBD-heavy female plants.

For this reason, the creation of a CBD-dominant, THC-free plant could eliminate that risk for growers. Growing outdoors is more cost-effective than growing the crop indoors using hydroponics. Not to mention the thousands of acres now available for growing hemp.

Where Can I Buy CBD Oil In Kentucky?

CBD oil in Kentucky is widely-available. Consumers can buy quality CBD products at many specialty shops that deal exclusively with cannabidiol products. Online vendors are another option, but they have to submit to less stringent guidelines and regulations. Given that Kentucky is a leader in hemp production in the US, it might make more sense to buy from local sellers and makers rather than from out-of-state.

Closing Thoughts on CBD Kentucky

A lot of you might be thinking, “CBD? Kentucky? What’s the connection?” The preceding article, hopefully, shed some light on the long-standing connections between the crop and the state. For example, did you know that Kentucky was once the center of hemp production in the US? And that hemp cultivation in Kentucky dates back to before the Revolutionary War?

With such history behind it, it was only a matter of time before hemp regained its hold as an essential part of Kentucky’s future. While fried chicken may be Kentucky’s most famous export, hemp and CBD products are fast replacing the Colonel’s influence over Kentucky’s economy.


Janet Miller

Janet Miller

Janet is a medical specialist with 10 years of experience as a physician and writing passion. She aims to help people and expand humans mindset. Chat with Janet on Twitter @Janet_Miller_MD or via our contact page.


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