If you live in The Bluegrass State or plan on visiting sometime soon, you should get familiar with the state’s drug and alcohol laws.

What are the consequences of drinking and driving? Is cannabis legal? And what kind of penalties exist for breaking the law? Read on for information about substance abuse laws in Kentucky.

DUI Laws in Kentucky

Alcohol affects a driver’s ability to make sound decisions on the road. Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is illegal. In Kentucky, a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) needs to be less than 0.08%. If a driver looks unimpaired but exceeds this limit, they are still in violation of the law.

DUI and driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws apply to illicit drugs. They also apply to inhalants, over the counter medications and controlled substances. If you’re found with an impairing drug in your system, you will face a host of penalties.

Zero Tolerance Laws in Kentucky

Pairing young and unseasoned drivers with substances makes for dangerous roads. There is a zero tolerance policy towards underage drinking and driving in Kentucky. It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to have a BAC of 0.02% or more. You can reach this limit with a single drink.

Is Cannabis Legal in Kentucky?

Marijuana is illegal in Kentucky. This is true for both medical use and recreation. CBD oil derived from industrial hemp, a valuable crop in the state, is legal when recommended by a doctor. 

Other Substance-Related Crimes in Kentucky

In Kentucky, the following activities are illegal:

  • Having or using illicit drugs and/or controlled substances
  • Making, selling or transporting these substances

Being drunk in public can incur penalties as can carrying open containers of alcohol in vehicles. As of 2019, about 15 counties in Kentucky are completely dry. Selling alcohol is not prohibited in so-called wet or moist counties. A dry county is called moist when it has wet cities.

Penalties for Alcohol or Drug Abuse in Kentucky

DUI Penalties in Kentucky

First-time offenders face the following:

  • $200 to $500 in fines and/or between 48 hours and 30 days of jail time. Community service may replace these penalties.
  • License suspension between 30 days and 120 days
  • An ignition interlock device. This device allows operation of the vehicle if the driver’s BAC is below 0.02%.
  • 90 days of substance abuse treatment 
  • Refusing to do a chemical test means 30 to 120 days of license suspension.
  • Commercial drivers are suspended for a year.
  • An aggravated charge means at least four days in jail.

Aggravated charges arise from:

  • Having a high BAC over 0.15%
  • Excessive speeding
  • Driving in the wrong direction
  • Causing injury or death
  • Driving with a passenger who is under 13
  • Refusing to do a test

Further offenses within a ten-year period lead to more severe penalties. Vehicle confiscation is possible.

Zero Tolerance Penalties in Kentucky

Underage drinking and driving has these consequences:

  • License suspension between 30 days and six months
  • Between $100 and $500 in fines or 20 hours of community service
  • Reaching a BAC of 0.08% or more results in the same penalties as a regular DUI for someone 21 or older.

Cannabis Penalties in Kentucky

  • Having less than eight ounces of marijuana can incur a $250 fine and up to 45 days in jail.
  • Selling the same amount can lead to up to a year of imprisonment and a $500 fine.
  • Cultivating less than five plants is a Class A misdemeanor. Having more counts as a Class D felony. The latter can result in 1-5 years of jail time and a $10,000 fine.

If a person has prior convictions, penalties become steeper. Selling to a minor also invites a harsher penalty.

While we strive to provide updated information, the legal environment is dynamic. Consult with a local lawyer before making decisions that could lead to drug or alcohol charges.

Get Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Kentucky

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is hope. We highly recommend seeking treatment. Health professionals can assist you to get back on your feet.

Treatment begins with a safe and supervised detox. Where relevant, doctors taper doses of controlled substances. They also aid with reducing withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment includes therapy which is essential for understanding the causes of substance misuse. Counselors teach patients tools to avoid triggers and cope with cravings.

Getting help shouldn’t be harder than getting drugs. Contact a rehab program near you to discuss the best options to suit your needs. It’s the first step towards a more healthy and happy life.


  1. Deppen, L. (2019). Is CBD oil legal? Here’s everything you need to know about CBD oil in Kentucky
  2. Mann, D. (2019). Here’s how many dry counties are left in Kentucky
  3. drive.ky.gov | DUI Laws in Kentucky. (2020)
  4. https://statelaws.findlaw.com/kentucky-law/what-are-the-kentucky-dui-laws.html

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