Over the last decade or so, there has been a concerted effort to change the marijuana laws across the United States – and those efforts have worked. As of 2023, 38 states, three territories and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products and 23 states, two territories and the District of Columbia allow non-medical use by adults. Tennessee, however, is not among those states. A Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains where the State of Tennessee stands on the issue of legalizing marijuana.
Tennessee Is Now in the Minority
Although the exact nature of the laws legalizing cannabis vary by state, a clear majority of states have now legalized the use of marijuana to some extent. That leaves Tennessee as one of only 12 states that does not allow the medical use of cannabis and one of 19 states in which you still face prison time for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Tennessee Marijuana Laws
Under Tennessee law distribution or possession of less than a half ounce of marijuana, referred to as “simple possession” or “casual exchange” is still a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to almost a year in jail. The cultivation, sale, or distribution of more than a half ounce but less than 10 pounds of marijuana is a Class E Felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine while the same offense involving 10 to 70 pounds or 10 to 19 marijuana plants, regardless of weight, is charged as a Class D Felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000. The cultivation, sale, or distribution of marijuana becomes a Class C felony if it involves more than 20 to 99 plants, regardless of weight, and subjects you to a prison term of up to six years and/or a fine of up to $100,000 and increases to a Class B Felony if more than 70 pounds or 100 to 499 plants are involved, increasing the potential penalties to a prison term of up to 12 years and/or a fine of up to $200,000. Finally, if you are convicted of the cultivation, sale, or distribution of more than 300 pounds or 500 marijuana plants, you can be charged with a Class A Felony, punishable by 15 to 25 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000.
In addition, you may face increased charges and penalties if various aggravating factors are involved, such as sale to a minor, sale, or possession close to a school, or the presence of a firearm.
The only current exception to Tennessee’s prohibition against the use of marijuana is the allowable use of high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil for seizure patients.
Will Tennessee Legalize Marijuana?
Back in 2016, the two largest cities in the State of Tennessee (Memphis and Nashville) both passed ordinances that gave an officer the discretion to charge someone with a civil infraction for possessing small amounts of cannabis, effectively decriminalizing the personal use of marijuana. The state legislature then passed, and the Governor signed, a bill that repealed and effectively overrode those ordinances.
Tennessee once again considered legislation this year that would have changed the state’s cannabis laws. HB0085, known as the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act,” would have “established a regulatory structure for the cultivation, processing, and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products in this state to be administered by the department of agriculture.” The legislature, however, failed to act on the legislation.
Given that even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is planning to petition the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule I drug (along with drugs like heroin) to a Schedule III drug (along with drugs like Tylenol with codeine), it is likely only a matter of time before Tennessee makes at least some changes to the state’s marijuana laws.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a marijuana related offense in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.