Cannabis in Tennessee is illegal for recreational use. Possession of even small amounts is a criminal misdemeanor, but there are limited legal allowances for non-psychoactive CBD oil as medical cannabis, and the authorities have not been able to enforce the law.[1]

2015 legalization of CBD oil[edit]

In May 2015, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 280 into law, against his earlier opposition. The bill legalized the possession and use of marijuana to treat a limited number of severe conditions, including epilepsy. The bill has no provisions for legal sale, thus requiring patients to acquire the drug outside the state of Tennessee; possession of CBD oil without proof that it was obtained legally outside of Tennessee was a misdemeanor.[2]

Municipal decriminalization[edit]

At the start of 2015 the Tennessee chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws launched a petition to place a referendum on the November ballot for Davidson County to defund local law enforcement prosecution against possession of small amounts of marijuana.[3] The measure failed to reach the ballot, as by the 6 August deadline the movement had only collected about 4,000 of the required 6,845 signatures to get the measure onto the ballot.[4]

In 2016, both Nashville and Memphis succeeded in decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis, with Memphis reducing punishment to a $50 fine.[5] Seven months later, however, a repeal was signed into Tennessee law. This repeal also prevented local governments from creating their own drug possession sanctions in the future.[6]

In July 2020, Nashville partially decriminalized cannabis possession, with the DA dropping all charges of marijuana possession under half an ounce.[citation needed]


In 2016 the Daily Helmsman noted that Tennessee spent $43 million in 2010 on prosecuting the 42% of their drug arrests which were for a half-ounce of marijuana or less.[5]


  1. ^ Tennessee considers minor reduction in harsh penalties for possession
  2. ^ Alan Frio. "Gov. Haslam signs cannabis oil bill". WSMV Channel 4. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  3. ^ "Referendum on marijuana prosecution sought in Nashville". 2015-01-15. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  4. ^ Joey Garrison, The Tennessean (2015-05-18). "Marijuana push falls short in Nashville". Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  5. ^ a b "Arkansas follows nationwide trend to legalize marijuana". Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  6. ^ Joey Garrison (2017-04-13). "Bill Haslam signs repeal of new Nashville, Memphis marijuana laws". Retrieved 2018-12-16.