Tennessee has yet to legalize a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, or implement any progressive recreational cannabis policies. There’s not much support for reform among Tennesseans, as a December 2016 Vanderbilt poll found that 42 percent say it should be legal for medical purposes and 33 percent support recreational cannabis legalization.
CBD from Hemp Oil in Tennessee
Hemp CBD oil is federally legal in the U.S. Individual state laws, however, are dynamic and some states have and will enact their own laws regulating hemp-derived CBD. Tennessee may govern hemp-derived CBD.
Medical Cannabis in Tennessee
Tennessee lawmakers approved Senate Bill 2531 to pass a highly restrictive, limited CBD-specific cannabis oil law in 2014. Under the law, patients with intractable seizures who have obtained certification from a physician can get access to CBD oil as part of a research study. The law has proven ineffective, however, as patients have been so far unable to obtain the cannabis oil. While Tennessee still doesn’t provide in-state resources, Senate Bill 280, passed in 2015, makes it legal for Tennesseans to travel outside of the state to procure the oil.
The state has yet to pass comprehensive medical cannabis laws. Two were proposed in 2015, but both died in committee. In December 2016, Republican lawmakers introduced a comprehensive medical cannabis bill for the 2017 legislative session, but it’s expected to meet resistance from other state lawmakers. The proposed legislation would allow the use of medical cannabis for cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, HIV and AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Recreational Cannabis in Tennessee
Possession of recreational cannabis in any amount is illegal in Tennessee. No matter how small of a quantity is possessed, for the first offense citizens are charged with a misdemeanor and can be jailed for up to a year and face a $250 fine. Tennessee is also yet to enact any policies related to conditional release for first time offenders, as many other states have.
Subsequent offenses can lead to a felony charge, with jail sentences reaching as high as 6 years. Possession of more than half an ounce can be characterized as possession “with intent to distribute.”
In 2016, the cities of Nashville and Memphis both decriminalized small possessions of cannabis. 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.
Cultivation of Cannabis in Tennessee
Cultivating hemp for medical or personal purposes remains illegal in Tennessee.
Tennessee has enacted a bill that allows industrial hemp cultivation along the lines of the Farm Bill in 2014. Under Senate Bill 2495/House Bill 2445, industrial hemp containing less than 0.3% THC 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 allow for the licensing of hemp processors so that hemp products can be processed in state.