The bill that was recently signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam allows for the use of cannabis oil in Tennessee in order to treat seizures caused by intractable epilepsy. Anybody who wants to use the oil, which is extracted from the marijuana plant, will have to obtain a prescription from a doctor licensed in Tennessee. Although research into cannabis oil’s effectiveness in treating seizures is ongoing, many people, particularly parents of young children suffering from epilepsy, claim that the substance has helped reduce the severity of seizures.
One complication of the law, however, is that the legislation does not allow for cannabis oil to be manufactured within Tennessee, meaning anybody who wishes to obtain the substance will have to get it from a state that has legalized its manufacture, such as Colorado.
Legal cannabis oil
That requirement already opens up a potentially legal pitfall for families in Tennessee. Within the medical marijuana community, a debate is ongoing about whether people who buy cannabis oil from out-of-state and bring it into Tennessee may be opening themselves up to criminal prosecution. While companies who import cannabis oil into Tennessee say that the federal Farm Bill allows for cannabis oil to be brought over state lines, others insist that the Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits such importation, supersedes the Farm Bill.
Furthermore, cannabis oil itself is still considered a Class I drug by the federal government meaning that using cannabis oil in any state could still put users in violation of federal law. Although, for the time being, the federal government has largely decided to take a hands-off approach to the situation and not enforce the federal prohibition when it conflicts with state laws, there is no guarantee that such an approach will continue into the future.
Tennessee has officially legalized cannabis oil for limited medical reasons. While the law makes possession and use of cannabis oil legal in certain cases for treatment of intractable epilepsy, the legislation appears to open up a legal grey area for Tennessee families. Because marijuana laws are in flux both in Tennessee and throughout the United States, a debate has been sparked over whether Tennesseans who are in compliance with the state’s recently passed legislation could nonetheless be exposing themselves to federal prosecution for marijuana possession. With Tennessee lawmakers already considering another medical marijuana bill, the issue seems unlikely to die anytime soon.
To meet federal legal criteria, CBD oil must contain no more than 0.3 percent THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
However, for those seeking hemp-derived CBD products containing less than .3% THC, there are plenty of options inside the state of Tennessee. In some larger cities such as Memphis and Nashville, there are shops that sell CBD products, including oils, tinctures, infused products, and topicals. Ordering CBD products online is always an option, as well, as there are many CBD companies that offer online ordering and shipping. However, it is important to do research to find a reputable company that sells high-quality products that have been tested for pesticides and potency, and that offer a lab report for all of the products available.
In some larger cities such as Memphis and Nashville, there are shops that sell CBD products, including oils, tinctures, infused products, and topicals. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Tennessee licensing requirements
Although CBD derived from hemp contains little to no THC and therefore, has no intoxicating effects, under the 1970 Federal Controlled Substances Act, all types of cannabis, including hemp, were considered to be illegal. That piece of legislation considered all types of the cannabis sativa plant, including both cannabis and hemp, to be illegal as a Schedule I controlled substance, which defined cannabis as a substance with a high potential for abuse, with no medicinal benefits, and a likelihood for addiction.
Thus, even hemp-derived CBD remains heavily regulated by the federal government. The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 also allows each state to make their own rules and regulations regarding the sale and distribution of hemp-derived CBD products, and state jurisdictions retain the right to restrict or prohibit the cultivation and commerce of hemp products. In addition, states may attempt to regulate food, beverages, dietary supplements, and cosmetic products containing hemp CBD, regardless of the final rules laid out by the FDA.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 also preserved the rights of the Food and Drug Administration to maintain authority over the regulation of CBD labeling, therapeutic claims, and the use of CBD as a food additive. The FDA has since taken a firm stance against allowing hemp CBD to be added to food or beverage products, while also maintaining that CBD may not be advertised as a dietary supplement. The FDA is currently in the process of re-evaluating the regulations on hemp-derived CBD products, but has yet to lay out specific regulations, leading to much confusion in the market. In July of 2019, the FDA issued a warning letter to a hemp CBD company, Curaleaf, outlining the various ways the company was in violation of these regulations.
Later in 2016, House Bill 1044 was signed into law, allowing cannabis with .9% of THC or lower to be manufactured, processed, dispensed, and possessed by patients referred to by a four-year public institution within the state as part of a clinical research study on antiseizure, anticancer, or other immunomodulatory properties of the plant. This bill is the closest Tennessee has to a legal medical marijuana system, and may be used as an affirmative defense in the event that a patient is arrested with cannabis containing .9% THC or less.