Personal use and cultivation

Possession and consumption

What rules and restrictions govern the personal possession and consumption of cannabis in your jurisdiction?

The Tennessee Drug Control Act 1989 (Sections 39-17-401 et seq. of the Tennessee Code Annotated) prohibits the use, manufacture, distribution and possession of marijuana with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration greater than 0.3% in Tennessee.

Tennessee permits the possession and use of cannabidiol for the treatment of intractable seizures in restricted situations (Sections 39-17-402(16)(E) to (F) of the Tennessee Code Annotated). Specifically, cannabis oil containing cannabidiol is exempt from the definition of “marijuana” when it contains less than 0.6% THC and is manufactured or possessed by a four-year public or private institution of higher education as part of a clinical research study certified by the drug enforcement administration in the state (Section 39-17-402(16)(E) of the Tennessee Code Annotated). Cannabidiol is also exempt from the definition of “marijuana” if:

  • it has a THC concentration of less than 0.9%;
  • it is labelled by the manufacturer as containing cannabidiol with a THC concentration of less than 0.9%;
  • it is possessed by an individual with proof of a legal order or recommendation from the state; and
  • the individual or the individual’s immediate family member has been diagnosed by a Tennessee-licensed medical doctor with intractable seizures or epilepsy (Section 39-17-402(16)(F) of the Tennessee Code Annotated).

Other than the provision permitting institutions of higher education to use cannabidiol in clinical studies, Tennessee has no provision regarding the legal sale of cannabidiol. Thus, receiving cannabidiol through a clinical study is the only legal way to obtain cannabidiol in Tennessee.

However, the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018 removed only “hemp,” which it defines as any portion of the cannabis sativa L. plant with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less, from the Controlled Substances Act’s definition of “marijuana.” Thus, to the extent that Tennessee allows marijuana with a concentration greater than 0.3% to be used or distributed, it remains illegal under federal law. It remains to be seen whether Tennessee will modify its definitions to comport with the definition of ‘hemp’ in the Agriculture Improvement Act. Hemp is also exempt from the definition of “marijuana” under Tennessee law, as are products derived from hemp, including cannabidiol with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less (Sections 39-17-402(16)(C) and 43-26-102(4)(B) of the Tennessee Code Annotated).

Cultivation

What rules and restrictions govern cultivation of cannabis for personal use?

It is unlawful to manufacture a controlled substance, including marijuana with a THC concentration greater than 0.3%, in Tennessee (Tenn. Code Ann. §39-17-417(a)(1)). However, the Agriculture Improvement Act 2018 legalized “hemp”—defined as any part of the cannabis sativa L. plant with a THC concentration of 0.3% or less—by removing it from the Controlled Substance Act’s definition of “marijuana.”

The Agriculture Improvement Act permits states to assume control of the regulatory authority over hemp and expressly does not pre-empt states from implementing more stringent regulations in regard to hemp. Tennessee already has a fully developed hemp program (Section 43-26-102(4)(B) of the Tennessee Code Annotated); however, it has not updated its regulations to reflect the Agriculture Improvement Act. Therefore, hemp production in Tennessee will continue under the state’s previous pilot program until new regulations are promulgated (Sections 43-26-101 et seq. of the Tennessee Code Annotated).

Use in and outside the workplace

What statutory and case law (if any) governs employers’ ability to restrict cannabis use both in and outside the workplace? Can cannabis use (even medical use) serve as legal grounds for termination?

The Tennessee Drug-Free Workplace Program permits employers to implement drug policies prohibiting the use of drugs, including marijuana (Sections 50-9-101 et seq. of the Tennessee Code Annotated). The program does not restrict employers’ ability to take action against employees for violating drug policies (Id. at Section 50-9-108). Importantly, Tennessee law provides no employment accommodations for individuals using medicinal cannabidiol. Further, the Tennessee attorney general issued an opinion holding that drug testing for marijuana does not violate the Tennessee or U.S. Constitution, even when applied to individuals that use marijuana in states where it is recreationally legal (Tennessee Opinion of the Attorney General 14-52 (April 24, 2014)). Therefore, marijuana use may serve as legal grounds for termination of employment in Tennessee.