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Tennessee Cannabis Facts

Updated on May 11, 2020.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Facts

State legislators have tried to change the medical marijuana facts for Tennessee by introducing a bill that would finally establish a sensible medical cannabis program in the state. The law as it is currently written only allows patients suffering from epileptic seizures to access cannabis, and only in the form of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a marijuana extract. However, the law is largely unworkable because patients have to travel to another state to obtain it.

Medical Marijuana Facts for Tennessee

  • The state’s CBD law went into effect in 2014. But, as in certain other states, it was worded in a way that made it basically useless for the vast majority of people in the state suffering from serious illnesses. Not only does it limit access to CBD to epileptic patients, but it also carried a requirement that Tennessee Tech University cultivate pot, and for certain hospitals to study the effects of CBD oil. But because cannabis is a controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government — and hospitals and universities depend on federal grants to operate — these institutions declined to participate in the program.
  • While much of the debate to legalize marijuana seems centered around the state of California, a medical marijuana bill was introduced to legislators in Nashville that eventually brought the battle to Middle Tennessee. Under the “Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act,” people suffering from certain medical conditions would be allowed to procure pot with a prescription at the nearest pharmacy. The bill, which was introduced to the state house and senate in September 2010, has yet to go before a committee vote.
  • With more states allowing medical and even recreational cannabis, the federal government has been encouraging safety precautions with tougher restrictions for DUI. To date, 14 states have traded their effects-based standard to one that establishes a conviction based on blood test results. A driver impairment law that relies on the presence of a substance is called a per se law.
  • There is a billboard in Tennessee that includes the message “It’s time for an honest discussion about medical marijuana” and depicts an older woman with a small child. She asks if it is “a crime for a grandmother to use medicine to help with her pain.” The billboard is scheduled to be up for at least six months and is in direct relation to having medical marijuana legalized in the state.
  • Ordinances were passed in Nashville and Memphis in 2016 that gave law enforcement officials the option to charge someone with a small amount of weed with a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense. One of the factors that led to the creation of the ordinances was that blacks are arrested for pot possession nearly four times more often than whites — though both consume weed at about the same rate.
  • The state’s attorney general said that the ordinances were not valid because they contradicted state law. This was only an opinion, though, and not a ruling backed by law. As a result, leaders in both cities said they would keep the ordinance in effect. A state representative introduced a bill in the 2017 legislative session to force repeal of the ordinances.
  • The state did slightly reduce the penalties for marijuana possession in 2016. Previously, three or more convictions were considered felonies that could lead to one to six years in jail and a maximum fine of $3,000. However, that penalty was reduced to a misdemeanor. That carries a jail term of no more than a year and a $500 fine.

For more medical marijuana facts for Tennessee or any other state, check back with regularly, and we will keep you updated.

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