What is CBD?

Hemp vs. Marijuana: Understanding Tennessee Law

With marijuana laws changing dramatically across the United States in recent years, it can be difficult to know what is legal in any given state. Complicating the already complex patchwork of laws is the distinction between hemp and marijuana. Even in states that have yet to enact a medical marijuana law, hemp production and possession is often legal, as is the case in Tennessee. To help clear up the confusion, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discussing hemp vs. marijuana and theWhat is CBD? Tennessee laws that apply to both.

The History of Hemp

The non-THC varieties of hemp date back to prehistoric times with the first records of hemp cultivation and use coming from China where the species most likely originated. From there, hemp made its way to Europe where it was widely cultivated for fiber and cooking by the 16th century. Puritans also brought hemp to New England in the mid-17th century, using it for spinning and weaving. By 1775, there was a thriving hemp industry in Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois.  Increased production of cotton in the South, however, eventually took the place of most hemp production by the late 1800s and in 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which placed all Cannabis culture under the regulatory control of the U.S. Treasury Department, further hampering the production of hemp in the U.S. Ultimately, industrial hemp production was prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act.

Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

A common misconception is that hemp and marijuana are two different species of plant when, in fact, they are not distinct species. Hemp and marijuana are simply two different names for cannabis, a type of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family. There is, however, a legal distinction between the two. Legally, hemp is defined as cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3 percent THC while marijuana is defined as cannabis sativa containing more than 0.3 percent THC. All cannabis plants contain both THC and CBD. What makes some plants/products illegal is the amount of THC.

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the principal psychoactive chemical of the cannabis plant. THC is what makes you feel “high” when you smoke marijuana or eat an edible. Cannabis plants that are grown for sale, whether legally or illegally, contain varying degrees of THC; however, any amount that exceeds 0.3 percent is illegal under both federal law and Tennessee state law.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid is also found in cannabis plants. Unlike its THC counterpart, CBD is legal under federal law. CBD does not produce a psychoactive “high” like THC; however, it is believed to provide numerous health benefits.  

Tennessee Marijuana Laws

Marijuana and other THC products remain classified as Schedule 1 controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This means that the DEA considers them to have a high likelihood of being abused and no current medical use, despite marijuana being legal in some cities and states, including for medical purposes.

Over the last couple of decades, numerous states have enacted laws legalizing marijuana for medical and even personal use. Unfortunately, Tennessee is not one of those states. In fact, Tennessee is one of only 12 states without a viable medical cannabis program and one of 19 states that continues to imprison individuals for possessing small amounts of cannabis. Tennessee is effectively an island in a sea of legalized cannabis. Six of the eight states that border Tennessee have comprehensive medical cannabis laws with a seventh (Georgia) allowing limited medicinal use of cannabis containing up to 5 percent THC.

In Tennessee, however, possession of up to a half ounce of marijuana remains punishable by up to one year in jail and maximum fine of $2,500 with a $250 required fine for all first-time convictions. Possession with intent to distribute is charged as a class E felony and is punishable by one to six years in prison.

Contact a Murfreesboro Defense Attorney 

If you have been charged with a marijuana offense in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the tram today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett