Kentucky Drug Laws

New Drug Sentences and Drug Courts

In 2011, the Kentucky legislature passed HB 463, which was designed to lower the number of drug offenders in Kentucky prisons.  The legislation changed the sentencing terms for marijuana possession and started a program designed to match drug offenders with community resources to treat offenders’ drug abuse problems. 

In addition to new sentencing laws, Kentucky, like many states also runs a comprehensive drug court program.  To qualify for Kentucky drug court, defendants must:

  • Be a nonviolent offender
  • Be eligible for probation or diversion
  • Have documentation from a medical professional that states they are addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • Have not participated in drug court before

Felony offenders participate in 12 months of active participation and 6 months of after care.  Misdemeanor offenders enroll in 12 months of active participation and 3 months of after care through the drug court program. 

The drug court program includes three phases: detoxification, education, and self-motivation.  Each phase requires that the offender submits to random drug screenings, visit the court at prescribed times, remain drug free, attend counseling session, and enroll in a self-help or twelve-step program.   By the end of the program, the offenders must be able to document that they have been drug and alcohol free for at least 210 days. 

After completion of the drug court program, judges may dismiss the remainder of probationary period or drop the charges if the person is going through a diversion program.

Designer Drugs

The Kentucky legislature has worked to stem the growth of designer drug abuse in the state.  The possession and sale of Salvia divinorum, K2, and MDPV, a methamphetamine-like synthetic drug, are illegal.

In 2012, legislators began to consider a new bill that would ban bath salts and other hallucinogenic drugs sold in convenience stores that do not fall under the current laws. By 2012, some Kentucky counties had already banned the substances because of the large number of emergency room visits and deaths caused in the youth population from these drugs.

Workplace Drug Testing

Kentucky has few professions that require mandatory drug tests. 

Miners and mining applicants must prove that they are drug free.  Before employment, applicants must present a drug test approved by the State Office of Mine Safety and Licensing or another licensed drug testing facility. Employers must reimburse employees they hire for pre-hire drug tests.

Coal mine employers may receive help from the state with workers’ compensation programs if they implement drug-free workplace programs.

Bus drivers and school bus mechanics may also be tested pre-employment, randomly during employment, and after accidents.

Involuntary Commitment

Casey’s law, passed in 2004, allows family members and friends to have a person committed for drug or alcohol abuse.  The law states that only people who are a risk to themselves or others because of their substance abuse are eligible for involuntary commitment. 

The family member or friend must petition the court and provide proof that the respondent is suffering from drug or alcohol abuse and presents a legitimate danger. If the court finds there is probable cause for a hearing, the respondent (the person who will undergo treatment) must be examined by at least two medical professionals. If the respondent refuses evaluation or refuses to appear in court, the police may be called to transport the person to a doctor for examination.  Treatment may last 60 to 360 days.

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