The 2016 Tennessee legislative session, which ended on April 23, saw an incremental improvement in the state’s marijuana policies. Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 1478 into law, which will eliminate the provision that makes a third conviction for possession of marijuana a felony. The law will take effect on July 1, 2016.
This change will reduce the penalty for third-time possession from between one and six years of incarceration to less than one year in jail. In addition, having a misdemeanor rather than a felony record will reduce the collateral consequences associated with the conviction. The bill also increases penalties for repeat DUI offenders and defelonizes third-time possession of all drugs except for heroin.
There is more work to be done, however. The sentences for marijuana possession are still unduly harsh for a drug that is less harmful than alcohol, and the law is enforced in a racially disparate manner. If you are a Tennessee resident, please ask your legislators to consider removing all criminal penalties for marijuana possession in next year’s session.
On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed SB 280 into law. This new law, which was sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, will allow qualified patients to legally possess cannabis oils with no more than 0.9% THC if their doctors recommend it. While this is an improvement to current law, it leaves the vast majority of medical marijuana patients without legal protections for using and possessing the medicine their doctors think is best for them.
Unfortunately, SB 280 also fails to include any regulated means for patients to access cannabis oil in Tennessee. Seriously ill patients or their families would have to travel to another state to get access to medical cannabis preparations. Not only is it illegal to transport CBD between states, it may be illegal to possession cannabis oil in states along the way. This law places patients and loved ones at risk.
While the bill takes a step forward, the law is so incomplete that MPP will still not be counting it as a “medical marijuana state.” If you are a Tennessee resident, ask your legislators to make sure this is only a first step.
On May 16, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a limited medical marijuana bill into law. SB 2531 proposes creating a four-year study on the benefits of cannabidiol, often referred to as “CBD,” a non-psychoactive component of marijuana. Unfortunately, the many limitations placed on the bill by lawmakers mean it is unlikely to result in relief for seriously ill patients in the state. MPP will not be counting Tennessee as a “medical marijuana state.”
The law unrealistically depends on the Drug Enforcement Administration authorizing the cultivation of marijuana within Tennessee for study. The DEA has maintained a monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research in Mississippi, and has steadfastly refused to allow other producers in the past 50 years. Even if it weren’t for that problem, laws that limit patient access to CBD leave most seriously ill patients behind. For a more detailed look at the bill and its many limitations, click here.
Under the bill, Vanderbilt University would conduct the study and Tennessee Tech would theoretically grow marijuana. As in Maryland, we hope Tennessee will move beyond its ineffective medical marijuana law and quickly pass a workable law that will help seriously ill patients in Tennessee.