Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
As legislation changes in Tennessee, check back to this section for information about how those legislative changes will affect the prospect of medical marijuana in Tennessee.
Medical marijuana in Tennessee is all but non-existent. However, upon its signing by Tennessee Governor Bill Hallam, on May 16, 2014, Senate Bill 2531 effectively commissioned “a clinical research study on the treatment of intractable seizures when supervised by a physician practicing at a university having a college or school of medicine.”
The bill called for Tennessee Tech to cultivate cannabis, but that was basically an unworkable situation because the school relies on federal grant money — and cultivating weed remains illegal under federal law. Since the federal government was not willing to allow the university to grow weed, it chose not to participate in the program.
The study, scheduled to be conducted over four years, allows for the use of cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis oil — cannabidiol is one of many cannabinoids found in cannabis that has shown to have that contains no more than 0.9% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Furthermore, Governor Hallam effectively passed Senate Bill 280 into law, upon signing on May 05, 2015, thus permitting the medical use of CBD oil that contains no more than 0.9% THC, which may be “obtained legally in the United States and outside of Tennessee.” This means that while certain patients are allowed to possess low-THC oil, they can’t get it within Tennessee’s borders. They would have to go out of state to obtain the oil, risking a violation of federal law by transporting it over state lines.
In 2016, the law was slightly altered to reduce the amount of THC permitted in any marijuana cultivated by a university to 0.6 percent from 0.9 percent. But it added wording that required the study to be certified by a state drug enforcement administration. This is a very time-consuming task — and it is also very difficult to achieve. As a result, the Tennessee medical marijuana program remains ineffective at best.
For more information on how to access CBD cannabis oil in Tennessee, contact the Medical University of Tennessee directly.
There was a push during the 2017 legislative session to introduce a common-sense approach to medical marijuana in Tennessee. Two Republican legislators introduced a bill that would allow patients suffering from a wider range of conditions to legally possess medical cannabis. However, a similar bill died in 2015 without even making it out of the committee phase.
The bill would expand the Tennessee medical marijuana program to include cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more. It would give the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the state health department permission to add conditions as warranted. It would also leave the licensing of marijuana production to the Safety, Health and Agriculture departments and allow for up to 50 cultivation operations across the state.
All licensed “grow houses” would need to have safety measures in place, including cameras, security officers and locks. Each grow house would be able to open an on-site dispensary as well as two “storefronts.” This would result in 150 dispensaries throughout the state.
Under the bill, patients would have to get a medical marijuana card for a $35 fee before they could obtain medical cannabis. They would also only be able to purchase strains of pot recommended by their doctors and would only be allowed to use it at home. Doctors would have to obtain a special license to legally recommend weed.
The bill was introduced in response to a growing epidemic of opioid addiction in Tennessee. Proponents of the bill say that in states where medical marijuana is legal, deaths related to opioid abuse have decreased by double-digit percentages.
There was obviously no guarantee that the bill would pass, but a Memphis Daily Newspoll of conservative voters showed promising results. According to the poll, 52 percent of respondents said they would support the establishment of a program that would allow seriously ill patients to use medical cannabis to manage their pain, compared to 31 percent who were opposed to such a program.
Senate Bill 1119 and House Bill 830 introduce a safe access program for patients certified for medical cannabis. Not only will this program decriminalize the use of medical cannabis, but it will also provide identification cards to patients.
A strongly-worded editorial in The Chattanoogan newspaper published on March 6, 2017 showed support for a workable Tennessee medical marijuana program. It criticized the state’s health commissioner for saying that expanding the program would do more harm than good. The editorial stated that “the swamp of deceit” state leaders are trying to foist on citizens “could not get any deeper.” It was written by a representative of a medical marijuana advocacy group, Safe Access Tennessee.
The commissioner’s opinion, the editorial stated, is 25 years out of date and is “out of step” with many medical professionals. According to the editorial, anywhere from 75-80 percent of doctors are in favor of medical marijuana, a number that mirrors the percentage of the general public that supports the use of medicinal weed. However, because U.S. federal law continues to insist cannabis offers no medical value, that continues to justify marijuana’s inclusion on the Schedule I list of controlled substances.
To be notified when the State of Tennessee passes legislature becoming a legal medical marijuana state, please sign up to the Tennessee waitlist.