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Tennessee Expands (Minimally) Medical Marijuana Law and Establishes Cannabis Commission

Tennessee recently enacted a minimal expansion of its medical marijuana law.  The law took effect May 27, 2021, and it slightly enlarges the medical conditions for which persons may possess a very limited amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  Previously, Tennessee law allowed only those diagnosed with intractable seizures or epilepsy to possess a limited amount of medical cannabis oil.  The law also creates a commission to study the possibility of future medical marijuana legalization.

The new measure allows individuals who have the following medical conditions to possess CBD oil containing less than 0.9% of THC:

  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Cancer, when such disease is diagnosed as end-stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness, nausea and vomiting, or pain.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Epilepsy or seizures.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • Sickle cell disease.

The patients diagnosed with a qualifying condition must have a letter from a doctor licensed to practice in Tennessee attesting to the patient’s qualifying medical condition, specifying the specific condition, and stating that conventional treatments to address this condition have been ineffective.  This letter is valid for a maximum of six months from the date of the doctor’s signature.  Additionally, any CBD oil possessed by those legally permitted to carry it must include certain information on the label.  Interestingly, it appears that individuals may be required to obtain the compliant CBD oil out of state because the law does not contain provisions allowing for in-state production or sale of cannabis products.  However, as a matter of federal law, products containing less than 0.3% of THC can be sold nationwide.

Lastly, the new law establishes a nine-member commission to study federal and state laws regarding medical marijuana to establish a marijuana program in Tennessee upon the federal government reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance.  The commission is to prepare recommendations for how best to establish an effective, patient-focused medical marijuana program in Tennessee and include proposed legislation in its recommendations.

About The Co-Author 

Ashley Robinson Li is an attorney with Bass, Berry & Sims where she advises clients related to all facets of employment and labor law. She provides counsel to employers on issues regarding wrongful termination, discrimination, employee discipline, harassment and other matters. She is also experienced representing employers in litigation matters related to compliance with state and federal wage and hour laws. She may be reached at [email protected].


Tim GarrettTim Garrett

Tim Garrett

Tim Garrett is an attorney with Bass, Berry & Sims where he helps employers solve complex issues related to all aspects of labor and employment law, providing in-depth counseling and developing creative solutions to underlying business issues. He defends employers of all sizes in employment litigation claims across the country. He may be reached at [email protected].

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