Cannabis oil bill passes in Tennessee, but confusion remains

Tennessee has legalized cannabis oil for treating seizures, but the new law may be in conflict with federal law.

Limited state law appears to conflict with federal prohibition still in place

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.

Legal cannabis oil

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.

Federal prohibition remains

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.

Drug offenses

With the drug law debate ongoing, it can be confusing for most people to know where they stand when charged with a drug offense. For the time being, however, marijuana possession remains a state and federal offense in Tennessee. Anybody who has been charged with any drug offense, including those pertaining to marijuana, should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately in order to understand what the best way to respond to such charges may be.

Keywords: drug, arrest, charges, marijuana