Despite support from citizens of Tennessee, the state has yet to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana bill, or any progressive recreational marijuana policies.
Recreational Marijuana in Tennessee
Possession of recreational marijuana in any amount is illegal in Tennessee. No matter how small of a quantity is possessed, citizens can be jailed for up to a year and face a $250 fine for their first offense, which is a misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses can lead to a felony charge, with jail sentences going as high as 6 years
In September 2016, Nashville became the first city in Tennessee to decriminalize small possessions of marijuana. Rather than an individual being automatically charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to a $2,500, a police officer can elect to make the infraction a civil penalty, susceptible to a $50 fine or up to 10 hours of community service.
Possession of more than half an ounce can be characterized as possession “with intent to distribute.” This is an especially tough policy considering that in many other states, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is now a civil infraction.
Tennessee is also yet to enact any policies related to conditional release for first time offenders, as many other states have.
Medical Marijuana in Tennessee
The state has yet to pass comprehensive medical marijuana laws, although two were proposed in 2015. These laws would have given medical marijuana to people suffering from a wide variety of ailments, along the lines of the 23 other states that have already legalized medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the two bills died in committee, but these initial steps are signs that the tide is beginning to turn in the Tennessee Legislature. Polls show that a large majority of Tennesseans already support medical marijuana.
In 2014, Tennessee did pass SB 2531, a bill that legalized CBD-specific cannabis oil for patients with intractable seizures who are approved for the treatment by a physician, as part of a clinical research study. Unfortunately, the bill proved ineffective as patients were unable to obtain the cannabis oil. In 2015, SB 280 was signed into law, which made it legal for Tennesseans to travel outside of Tennessee to procure the oil, as the state provides no in-state resources for access.
CBD Hemp Oil in Tennessee
Consumption of CBD hemp oil is federally legal, as CBD hemp oil falls under the same importation and commerce laws as other hemp products.
Cultivation of Cannabis in Tennessee
Tennessee enacted a bill to allow industrial hemp cultivation along the lines of the Farm Bill in 2014. Under Senate Bill 2495/House Bill 2445, cannabis possessing less than 0.3% THC (industrial hemp) is reclassified as an industrial crop rather than a controlled substance. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture accepts applications to grow hemp, and assists farmers in procuring the necessary seed in compliance with the DEA.
In May 2016, Gov. Bill Haslam signed House Bill 2013 to further expand the Tennessee hemp industry. The measure allows for the licensing of hemp processors so hemp products can be processed in state.
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