Is marijuana legal in Tennessee?
Current legality status
Cannabis is illegal under state law.
Marijuana is not legal in Tennessee, and the state has some of the most restrictive laws in the country. Recreational and medical use is prohibited in Tennessee, and previous attempts at legalization have been shot down or amended into ineffectiveness.
Tennessee has harsh penalties for marijuana, concentrates, and paraphernalia, although recently, small amounts carry fewer penalties than before. The state only allows for patients with qualifying conditions to possess high-CBD/low-THC oil, but there is no infrastructure to provide it to those in need.
Personal possession of up to ½ oz is a Class A misdemeanor with up to a year of jail time and a $250 fine for first offenses. Any larger amount will result in a felony offense and the assumption of sale of marijuana.
Any amount of cultivation warrants at least a Class E felony, at least 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine. This increases exponentially as the quantity of marijuana increases.
Penalties for possession, manufacturing and distributing hashish or other concentrates are the same as for flower. Governor Bill Haslam signed HB 1478 into law, which eliminated a provision that made a third conviction for possession of marijuana a felony. The law took effect July 1, 2016.
Here is a short list of some penalties for possession, sale, and/or distribution of marijuana, or hash, or paraphernalia in Tennessee.
|Possession||½ oz or less||Up to 1 year|
|Sale||½ oz up to 10 lbs||1 – 6 years|
|10 – 70 lbs||2 – 12 years|
|Cultivation||10 plants or less||1 – 6 years|
|Hash/Concentrates||Possession of less than 14.75g||11 months|
|Manufacturing, distributing or delivering||Less than 2lb||1 – 6 years|
|2lbs – 4lbs||1 – 12 years|
|Paraphernalia||Possession with intent to use||1 year|
Tennessee recreational & medical marijuana legalization efforts
Tennessee residents eager for legalization shouldn’t hold their breath. Despite widespread approval for a medical marijuana system among voters, cannabis legislation is not a voter initiative process and can only be passed by elected officials.
Technically, the Clinical Cannabis Authorization and Research Act passed in the House in March 2020 to create a legal framework for access to medical cannabis products (joints, vapes, and edibles excluded), but it was amended in the Senate to hinge on the federal government changing cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II, so it’s effectively moot.
CBD oil was made legal to possess by severe epileptics in 2015, but there are no legal means to acquire it.
Many Tennessee lawmakers defer to cannabis’ federal Schedule I status, and a majority of currently serving state senators and representatives do not support legalization.
Tennessee general elections take place in November 2020, where some conservative incumbents will run against candidates who support at least some form of legalization. Voters should contact their representatives and express their desire for cannabis decriminalization and legalization.
Tennessee residents can register to vote here.
Support for some form of legalization is growing in Tennessee, though it remains a conservative state. A 2018 poll by Middle Tennessee State University indicated 81% of Tennesseans support legalizing marijuana, although only 37% approve of personal use. In recent polls taken in major cities like Nashville and Chattanooga, on average only 12% did not support legalization of any kind.
Local ordinances were passed by cities Nashville and Memphis in 2016 to reduce penalties and partially decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but Gov. Bill Haslam nullified both laws the following year. However, in July 2020, the Nashville’s District Attorney’s Office announced it would no longer prosecute cases of marijuana possession below ½ oz.
Tennessee cannabis DUI laws
Like everywhere else, it’s illegal to drive while under the influence in Tennessee. The state still treats cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, and you can’t drive intoxicated on a controlled substance. Tennessee law defines “under the influence” as “impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of oneself that the driver would otherwise possess.”
In Tennessee, anyone operating a vehicle has given implied consent to a chemical test of their blood-alcohol concentration; refusing can result in a civil offense.
A first time DUI charge is a Class A misdemeanor, will result in mandatory jail time, from as little as two days to an entire year, and up to a $1,500 fine.
Second and third offenses are also misdemeanors, but with higher minimum jail time and higher fines, and licenses can be revoked for 2–10 years.
A fourth or subsequent DUI is a Class E felony, maximum $15,000 fine, and 1–6 years in jail.
Tennessee DUI laws are “per se,” meaning that proof of blood-alcohol concentration over the legal 0.08% is sufficient evidence of intoxication. This does not apply to driving under the influence of drugs in Tennessee, but in states with “per se” laws for drugs there is a zero tolerance policy, meaning any amount ingested or inhaled is illegal. Penalties increase exponentially to felony charges (aggravated DUI) if minors are involved.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in Tennessee
Are edibles legal in Tennessee?
No. There are hemp dispensaries that sell hemp CBD-infused candies, cookies, tinctures, and the like, but nothing comparable to a medical or recreational store.
Is CBD legal in Tennessee?
Yes, hemp-derived CBD is legal in Tennessee if it has under 0.3% THC, as per the Farm Bill. CBD oil with 0.9% THC is legal to possess for people suffering epilepsy but remains unobtainable in the state.
Is smokable hemp allowed in Tennessee?
Smokable hemp can be purchased in flower and pre-roll form.
Can you get a medical card in Tennessee?
Tennessee does not have a medical marijuana program, but patients with debilitating seizures can legally possess CBD oil that contains less than 0.9% THC. However, there are no legal manufacturers within the state. It’s a federal crime to bring cannabis products across state lines.
What are the medical program’s qualifying conditions?
Seizures and epilepsy, but only for CBD oil and the state does not provide it.
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Post last updated Sept. 8, 2020