Last Update: September 23, 2014

Tennessee adopts ineffective medical marijuana law

On May 16, Gov. Bill Haslam signed SB 2531, a bill that will, at least theoretically, establish a university-based study of cannabis oil and its benefits to those with difficult to treat seizure conditions. Unfortunately, the new law is very limited in several important respects, and only authorizes cannabis oil containing cannabidiol (also known as CBD) and trace amounts of THC for certain types of patients. The law assumes the federal government will allow state learning institutions to cultivate and distribute marijuana, and it leaves behind most seriously ill patients who could benefit from access to medical marijuana. To learn more about SB 2531, click here. For more information on the shortcomings of laws limited to CBD, click here.

Unfortunately, the state legislature rejected a compassionate and effective medical marijuana law when HB 1385 stalled in committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sherry Jones, would have created a workable medical marijuana system similar to those found in 21 other states and the District of Columbia, and would have protected seriously ill patients in Tennessee who should not to be considered criminals for trying a safer alternative to many pharmaceutical drugs.

Despite a recent MTSU poll, which found that 75% of Tennesseans support allowing medical marijuana, the legislature and governor instead opted for a highly restricted bill that will leave behind most seriously ill patients who would otherwise benefit from medical marijuana. 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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