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Tennessee Fails to Pass Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana

 Posted on May 05,2021 in Drug Crimes

Anderson County criminal defense attorney for marijuana possessionThere are currently 36 states in this country that have passed laws that regulate cannabis for medical use. Tennessee is not included in that list of states, and a bill that would have decriminalized medical marijuana was narrowly defeated – 9 to 8 – by a Tennessee House committee last week. If passed, the law would have allowed people with certain medical conditions, upon approval by their doctor, to possess a limited amount of marijuana products without being charged for drug possession. The lawmakers who sponsored the bill say they are not giving up, despite statements by Gov. Bill Lee that he is opposed to any cannabis legalization, including for medical use.

Tennessee Marijuana Laws

According to polls conducted in the state, more than 80 percent of Tennessee voters support the right for patients and their doctors to be able to decide if medical marijuana is an appropriate treatment. Despite that overwhelming support, marijuana use remains illegal for both medical use and recreational use in the state.

Possession of any amount of marijuana is charged as a misdemeanor in the state. A conviction can mean up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. In 2016, both Memphis and Nashville passed local ordinances that gave law enforcement the discretion to charge a person with a civil infraction instead of a misdemeanor if they had a small amount of marijuana on them. The then-governor and state legislators quickly passed a law that repealed those ordinances.

Possession of 10 or fewer marijuana plants is charged as a felony. A conviction of this crime in Tennessee could leave a person facing one to six years in prison, as well as significant fines based on how many plants they are growing.

In addition to the medical marijuana bill that failed to pass, there are several other bills currently sitting in either the Tennessee House or Senate that seek to change marijuana laws in the state, including:

  • A bill that would make it illegal for police to conduct a search based on the smell of marijuana alone.

  • A bill that would decriminalize the possession or exchange of less than one ounce of marijuana.

  • A bill that would recognize other states’ medical marijuana cards.

  • A bill that would reduce the possession of marijuana from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor.

  • A bill that would allow the state to collect a 12 percent sales tax on any retail marijuana sold.

Contact a Knox County Defense Attorney

It is highly unlikely that any of the current bills will even make their way out of committee, let alone pass both the House and Senate and be signed into law by the governor. This means that a possession of marijuana charge remains a Class A misdemeanor, and if you are convicted, you could end up in jail. If you have been charged with marijuana possession, you need a skilled Knoxville, TN drug crimes defense lawyer in your corner. Call Jeffrey Coller, Knoxville Criminal Defense Lawyer today at 865-281-1000 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.


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