The Future of Medical Marijuana in Tennessee


The chances may be a little higher that Tennesseans could see medical marijuana on the state’s November 2020 ballot.  Two Republican state lawmakers announced they are in the final stages of reintroducing medical marijuana legislation.  State Senator Janice Bowling, a Republican from Tullahoma County, and Representative Ron Travis, a Republican from Dayton County, are anticipated to reintroduce their bill any day now.  In an interview with High Times Magazine, Bowling said, “There are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans that could benefit from medical cannabis.  This is desperately needed in Tennessee, it is desperately needed by the patients, and doctors need an alternative from opioids.”  

Bowling and Travis tried last year, but the bill failed to gain the support it needed.  This time, they have picked up the endorsement from the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association, according to The Tennessean.  While 33 states have already legalized medical marijuana, currently, Tennessee is one of only 17 states that criminalize the use of medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.  

Bowling said in a recent interview with the newspaper that her bill would create a state government infrastructure to issue marijuana cards and regulate the sale of marijuana vapes, edibles and non-smokable products.  

“Tennessee has a concerted effort in their legislature to get medical marijuana passed but still looks to be an uphill battle seeing recent efforts.  If it makes the ballot in 2020 I think it will pass.  Polling always shows medical above 75% in all states.  Biggest challenge is getting the right legislation passed or best medical bill approved by voters.  The courts will challenge either path taken,” Jason Willett, Managing Partner at Delta Cannabis Consulting Company explained to Signpost in a recent interview.

  “Once legalized for medical marijuana, it will take a state about a year to get through the application process and another year to construct and open facilities.  Cultivation facilities and manufacturers will take a year and a half to be operational at best, from the time the law passes. Then, they will need 6 months once cultivation opens so you have a product to sell (flower, concentrates, and edibles).  Dispensaries should be open and operational 6 months after cultivators.  Depending on the conditions allowed under the law, it can help people in several ways.  Pain management will always be needed.  From arthritis to all types of cancer, medical cannabis is a good addition to a patient’s current medical plan,” offered Willett.  He added that any cannabis treatment should be under the direction of a physician.  

There are some obstacles to the medical cannabis business.  Currently, marijuana is illegal under federal law and is considered to be in the same category as heroin or other harmful narcotics under the Controlled Substances Act.  This means that you can’t use banks to do business because they are regulated by the federal government.  That leaves dispensaries and cultivation facilities with large amounts of cash on hand, creating serious security concerns.

A 2018 article in Forbes magazine states that medical marijuana is a $9 billion industry “equivalent to the entire snack market – where only 30% of businesses had a bank account.”

  “Medical Cannabis is a very profitable business as long as it is regulated.  However, some states are not just handing out the medical marijuana permits.  These successful applicants must show their experience and expertise.  This is not a bunch of fraternity brothers putting some money together as an investment so they can go smoke weed!” Willett said.  

21 states have recreational adult use cannabis in some form, and it is growing.  The recreation adult use market is a separate industry all together.  Medical marijuana will be taxed at a lower rate and will have higher dosage available for patients that will not be made available for legal recreational use.