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Current marijuana laws in Tennessee
Marijuana, for both medical and recreational uses, is not legal in Tennessee. However, there is an exception that allows the use of high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil for seizure patients.
Possession and cultivation both remain illegal. Possession of any amount is a misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Cultivation of 10 plants or less is a felony, punishable by one to six years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and the penalties increase significantly for each additional plant being grown.
Until 2016, third and subsequent convictions for the possession of marijuana were felonies, punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. But in 2016, the legislature reduced that penalty to a misdemeanor, so people convicted of non-violent possession of most drugs will no longer suffer the stigma of a lifelong felony record.
The state is blocking decriminalization. Meanwhile, the two largest cities in Tennessee – Memphis and Nashville – both passed ordinances in 2016 that gave an officer the discretion to charge someone with a civil infraction for possessing small amounts of marijuana. One of the reasons for this was that the criminal law has been enforced unequally: In 2010 in Tennessee, there were four African Americans arrested for marijuana possession for every white arrested, despite the fact that both races consume marijuana at about the same rate.
However, the legislature passed and then-Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that repealed those local marijuana decriminalization laws. The bill said, “state government law preempts local government enactments with respect to the regulation of and appropriate sanctions for conduct involving drugs and other similar substances.” Now, with dozens of new lawmakers and a new governor, it’s time to renew the call for statewide reform. Please ask your legislators to support replacing criminal penalties with civil fines for simple possession.