Despite widespread support among residents for legalization, Tennessee remains one of the 30 states in which marijuana is still illegal.
While many states have completely de-criminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use and adopted marijuana-friendly laws, Tennessee has remained firmly rooted in the harsh anti-marijuana drug policies of the last century. Possession of any amount of marijuana for recreational use, regardless of how small amount it is, is a crime in the state.
For first-time offenders, punishment — for what is considered practically a non-crime in many states where marijuana is still technically illegal — is relatively harsh, and carries a mandatory fine of $250 and up to one year imprisonment. The first and second offense is classified as a misdemeanor. The second offense doubling the fine to $500 but with the same one year sentence.A third offense is considered a felony, and carries a $1,000 fine and a jail sentence of up to six years. These penalties are for any amount of marijuana between ‘barely detectable’ and one-half ounce.
Get caught in Tennessee with more than one-half ounce of marijuana, or be arrested for the sale of any amount of marijuana in the state, and the charge immediately changes from simple possession to a felony charge of possession with intent to distribute. Penalties range from fines of up to $5,000 for possession of between one-half ounce to 10 pounds of weed up to a staggering 15-60 year prison sentence and $200,000 fine for possession of 300 pounds or more.
Cultivating marijuana in the state carries similar harsh penalties: a $5,000 fine and a prison term of one to six years for growing ten plants or less; a $50,000 fine and a sentence of between two and 12 years for growing between 10 and 19 plants; a $100,000 fine and a sentence of three to 15 years, for growing between 20 and 99 plants; up to a maximum of a fine of $500,000 and a prison sentence of not less than 15 years or more than 60.
Something as simple as possession of a bong is illegal under Tennessee’s anti-paraphernalia law, and is considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The sale of paraphernalia is a felony and carries a $3,000 fine and a sentence of between one and six years in jail.
Tennessee is in firm control of the anti-marijuana movement. Several failed attempts have been made at changing the anti-marijuana laws to be more weed friendly, but none have succeeded. This includes at least two failed attempts to legalize medical marijuana since 2010.
Given the state’s history as a staunchly anti-marijuana state, there is little reason to believe Tennessee will become a weed-friendly state any time soon.
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