Tennessee’s limited medical cannabis program set to expand thanks to Governor’s signature


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A medical cannabis expansion measure has been signed by the governor of Tennessee. 

With his signature, the state’s limited CBD program will undergo major development. Moreover, a commission to study broader medical cannabis legalization will be established.

The legislation to expand Tennessee’s medical cannabis program was inked by Gov. Bill Lee (R) just weeks after it was sent to his desk by lawmakers. 

Although the move signals positive change for the state’s emerging medical cannabis market, advocates remain concerned about the program’s restrictiveness; a more comprehensive medical cannabis expansion proposal failed to make its way to the governor’s desk.

Tennessee’s medical cannabis expansion bilTennessee’s medical cannabis expansion bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 19-12 on Tuesday, May 4. The following day, it cleared the House with a vote of 74-17.

Before it managed to pass the final hurdle, a proposed amendment to eliminate specific Senate language was overthrown by the House. The suggested amendment stipulated that federal policy change must be enacted before Tennessee’s medical cannabis program can be introduced.

What does Tennessee’s medical cannabis expansion bill entail?

Now that Gov. Bill Lee has signed Tennessee’s medical cannabis expansion bill – thus leading to its imminent enactment – patients with qualifying conditions will be allowed to possess CBD oil that is enriched with no more than 0.9 percent of the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). 

In comparison with federal hemp regulations, the THC limit as per Tennessee’s medical cannabis program is three times greater.

Expansion of the program means that an influx of new patients are likely to enroll for plant-based cannabis treatments. Examples of conditions that will be added once Tennessee’s medical cannabis expansion bill is effectuated include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • ALS
  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sickle cell disease


A doctor’s recommendation and solid proof that the condition causes ongoing symptomatic relief would be required from all patients who want to acquire cannabis-based medicines. Tennesseans who do not have a physician recommendation will be obligated to travel outside of the state. 

It is likely that some people who do not qualify to receive medical cannabis under the state’s expansion law – which merely offers legal protections for patients under stringent circumstances – may feel prompted to purchase weed from the black market.

New commission will play an important role in Tennessee’s medical cannabis program

Although Tennessee lawmakers did not give the go-ahead to legalize medical cannabis in the state this year, they did pass decriminalization legislation that could help patients gain access  to pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products for years to come; as noted above. 

Under the terms of Tennessee’s legislation to expand patient access to the plant, a nine-member strong commission will be in charge of scrutinizing federal and state cannabis laws. Additionally, the commission will be required to help legalize medical cannabis fully in the near future through the preparation of bills.

“I think this is what’s before us—this is our opportunity now,” concluded sponsor of Tennesse’s medical cannabis expansion effort, Senate Speaker Pro Tem Ferrell Haile (R).