Tennessee modifies ineffective medical marijuana law, but still falls short


Last update: May 21, 2015


In May 2014, Gov. Bill Haslan signed a bill intended to allow seriously ill seizure patients to have access to cannabis oil containing large amounts of CBD and only trace amounts of THC. Unfortunately, like many similar bills in other states, the law turned out to be ineffective, and those it was designed to serve were not able to obtain cannabis oil. Nearly a year later, Gov. Haslan signed a second bill, SB 280, in an effort to find a workable solution. While the law does provide protections for patients, it requires them to travel across state lines to a state where it can be obtained and return to Tennessee. Because CBD is a controlled substance under federal law, transporting it between states is an offense both under federal law and under the laws of the states patients would have to travel through. In addition, the law remains very limited, in that it applies only to seizure patients. To learn more about SB 280, click here. For more information on the shortcomings of laws limited to CBD, click here.

Two compassionate, comprehensive medical marijuana bills were rejected by the legislature in 2015. HB 561 and SB 660 would have established medical marijuana programs similar to those found in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Both bills stalled in committee.

Tennesseans support providing seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana by a wide margin. In early 2014, an MTSU poll indicated voters support such a measure by 75%. Please take a moment to encourage your legislators to pass a meaningful medical marijuana bill that can help a wide range of serious medical conditions.

Marijuana laws in Tennessee


In Tennessee, possession of any amount of marijuana — even as little as a single gram — can land you in prison for up to a year, with a mandatory fine of between $250 and $2,500. Tens of thousands of cases enter the system each year, families are impacted, and futures jeopardized.

Please ask your legislators to support replacing criminal penalties with civil fines for simple possession. Or, you can ask your legislators to support legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use.

Also, be sure to check out this ACLU report that shows the extent to which marijuana laws are used to target members of the African American community in Tennessee. For every white person arrested for marijuana-related offenses in 2001, there was an average of 1.8 arrests of black individuals. By 2010, there were four African Americans arrested for every white arrested. Studies have shown that rates of marijuana use among blacks and whites are approximately the same.

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