Up in smoke? Proposed marijuana laws hit Tennessee legislature

Up in smoke? Proposed marijuana laws hit Tennessee legislature


The 111th General Assembly convened on January 8 at high noon, and with the session well underway, a trio of marijuana-related bills have been introduced by Democratic Senator Sara Kyle of Memphis.

Two of Sen. Kyle’s bills were sponsored in the House by Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville. SB 256 decriminalizes the possession of small quantities of marijuana and SB 260 allows persons with medical marijuana identification cards to possess marijuana. Senator Kyle’s third bill, SB 257, proposes changing the definition of marijuana for tax-related purposes and is sponsored by Memphis House Rep. Jerry Miller.

Our crystal ball needs new batteries, but this much seems clear. Recreational marijuana is indubitably toast this year, particularly being the first session under newly-anointed Gov. Bill Lee. Medical remains a long shot, but stay tuned for updates this session.

Senate Bill 256

SB 256 proposes changes to two existing Tennessee marijuana laws.  

The bill amends Tennessee’s “simple possession or casual exchange” statute. Under the statute’s current language, it is illegal for someone to “knowingly possess or casually exchange a controlled substance” unless the person got the substance “directly from, or pursuant to a valid prescription” from a practitioner “acting in the course of professional practice.” SB 256 proposes adding the following language: “Notwithstanding [this statute’s current language] and [the state’s “Criminal offenses and penalties” statute], it is not an offense for a person to intentionally possess marijuana in an amount less than one ounce (28.35) grams.”

In plain English, SB 256 decriminalizes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

SB 256 also proposes changing the state’s “criminal offenses and penalties” statute. Currently, section (a) of the statute bans knowingly manufacturing, delivering, selling, or possessing for purposes of delivering, manufacturing, or selling controlled substances. Under section (g)(1) of the statute, violating section (a) can lead to a fine of up to $5,000 if the controlled substance in question is marijuana and the amount of marijuana in question is between one-half an ounce (14.175 grams) and ten pounds (4535 grams).

SB 256 proposes adding language to section (g)(1) that would make it clear there is no penalty for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana.  Section (g)(1) current imposes a fine for knowingly manufacturing, delivering, selling, or possessing between one-half an ounce and ten pounds.

Follow SB 256 here.  

Senate Bill 260

SB 260 proposes adding a simple medical marijuana exception to Tennessee’s “simple possession or casual exchange” statute.  Under SB 260, it would be legal for someone with a “valid medical marijuana patient identification card” to “possess or distribute to another lawful cardholder” up to half an ounce (14.175 grams) of marijuana. The identification card does not have to be issued by Tennessee, a card issued by another state would be valid in Tennessee.

Follow SB 260 here.

Senate Bill 257

SB 257 proposes a uniform definition of marijuana under the state’s criminal code and the tax imposed on illegal substances.  Currently, the definitions are inconsistent. In particular “a cannabidiol product approved as a prescription medication by the United States food and drug administration” would no longer be taxed as an unauthorized substance.

Believe it or not, there is at least one FDA-approved cannabidiol drug, for the treatment of rare and serious epileptic seizures.  

Follow SB 257 here.  

We will update readers during the legislative session and encourage you to stay tuned for more information concerning marijuana and hemp. 

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