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How does Tennessee penalize marijuana possession?

Over the last decade, decriminalization and legalization measures have changed marijuana policy in many states. More states than not now allow certain people to access medical marijuana. A growing number have also legalized the adult recreational use of marijuana. However, Tennessee is not a state currently known for having a progressive and forward-looking approach to marijuana law.

You may think that shifting cultural attitudes will mean any marijuana offense will be met with a slap on the wrist, but you'd be wrong. Tennessee still takes marijuana offenses very seriously. Possession can result in jail time, even if it's the first time you have a run-in with the law. Don't expect to have an affirmative medical defense. Under the current law in Tennessee, very few people qualify for protection when using medical marijuana.

The Tennessee medical marijuana law doesn't protect many people

While the state has created a medical marijuana law, it is a very restrictive law. It only allows a small number of patients to possess marijuana oils that are high in CBD and low in TCH. Not only are these extracts hard to legally obtain without any infrastructure in the state, but they are also shown to be less effective than other forms of marijuana medicine.

To qualify for protection under the law in Tennessee, you must have a condition that causes intractable seizures. You can only have marijuana oil high in CBD with less than one percent THC. There are no state-licensed dispensaries where you can buy these oils and no law allowing for you to grow marijuana in your home for your medical needs.

Possession charges result in jail time and fines

If you get caught with half an ounce (14 grams) or less, the courts generally treat that as a misdemeanor. That means you will face up to a year in jail and fine of $250 for a first offense. Second offenses also carry up to a year in jail or a fine of $500. For those who get caught with more than half an ounce, they will likely face felony charges related to distribution or possession with intent to distribute.

A first offense involving between half an ounce and 10 pounds can carry between one and six years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Subsequent offenses will carry higher penalties. Possession of hash or concentrates can result in up to 11 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Charges related to the sale or delivery of marijuana extracts are felony charges that can result in up to six years in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000. It's easy to see why people need to take potential marijuana-related criminal charges seriously in Tennessee.

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Jack P. Sherman, Attorney at Law
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