Tennessee’s prescription for pain: The future with medical marijuana

The title of this article may remind you of Clubber Lang in Rocky III. In the movie, he’s asked about his prediction for the fight.

The iconic villain simply responds, “pain.” While he batters poor Rocky to a pulp in the first fight, a rejuvenated Rocky returns to reclaim his title in spectacular fashion.

People looking for medical marijuana in Tennessee face a fight of their own. At present, the state doesn’t have a proper program in place, and it’s tough to envisage one being voted in anytime soon. Yet, you can technically apply for a Tennessee medical marijuanas card if you want something slightly better than CBD oil.

In this article, we highlight the process and the current state of play regarding MMJ in Tennessee.

What is the situation with medical marijuana in Tennessee?

Sadly, there’s no way to access medical marijuana in Tennessee. On the face of it, Senate Bill 280, signed into law in 2015, should have represented a breakthrough of sorts since it was sort of an MMJ bill. Yet, nothing in the legislation enabled prospective patients to access the substance. It was about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Tennessee’s underwater hairdryer approach to marijuana legislation continued with House Bill 2144 in 2016. It permitted patients with a doctor’s recommendation to access and use CBD oil with a maximum of 0.9% THC. 

Here’s the thing. You can ‘buy’ this mythical oil that somehow has more than 0.3% but less than 0.9% THC if you have a Tennessee medical marijuana card. You just can’t get it in TN. So, you can go to a different state, try to find something that hardly exists, and bring it back. By doing so, you’re committing a federal crime and will probably spend several years in jail.

By the way, if you’re found with any amount of weed in the state, you could be sentenced to a year in prison. Selling more than half an ounce is a felony, as is growing one plant. In both cases, you could be making friends with gangland members in a Tennessee penitentiary for up to six years.

The state’s reticence to legalize medical marijuana is even more maddening when you consider that it’s one of the worst places on the planet for opioid overdose deaths. In 2021, there were over 3,000 overdose deaths in Tennessee. According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), TN has almost double the number of opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 members of the population than the national average between 2011 and 2021. 

There’s a growing body of evidence outlining the ability of marijuana to reduce a person’s reliance on opioids. So, why aren’t state lawmakers acting accordingly? You can probably take a guess.

How to get medical marijuana in Tennessee

You might decide that having access to the low-THC oil afforded to you by the MMJ ‘program’ in TN is better than nothing. In that case, you have to go through a certain process to buy it. 

Step one is to find a medical professional willing to provide certification. They will examine you and decide whether you’re a good candidate for the oil. In this case, they will provide a written recommendation. At this point, you can theoretically buy the low-THC oil.

But, as I outlined above, this is easier said than done. It isn’t legal for any store within Tennessee to sell this oil. If you buy it out-of-state and bring it back, you’re breaking the law. 

About the only good news is that there’s a cannabis bar and restaurant in Nashville that sells sauces and drinks infused with small amounts of THC. The seller keeps the THC content below 0.3% and ensures it is derived from hemp. However, you don’t need an MMJ card in Tennessee to avail of the products. You only need to be 21+.

Getting medical marijuana in Tennessee

I wish I could tell you that it’s now possible to apply for MMJ in Tennessee. In reality, the state doesn’t have a medical marijuana program. What it has is an utterly ludicrous situation where you can’t legally buy the product you received a medical professional’s certification for. There’s no way of knowing when the state will legalize the substance, but it won’t be anytime soon.