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Tennessee Drug Laws

If you're caught with drugs, depending on the circumstances (the amount and type of the drugs involved), there are numerous of offenses that you can be charged with in Tennessee, such as:

Possession of Marijuana in Tennessee

Although many states have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes, that's not the case in Tennessee, where cannabis remains illegal. Unlike other states that have convoluted drug possession laws where the amount, concentration, and type of drug are relevant in determining the penalties, Tennessee's drug possession laws don't work that way. This means that you can face identical charges for marijuana possession as you would face for the possession of heroin if it's your first drug offense.

If it's a first-time drug possession charge, it's considered a misdemeanor, regardless of what drug is involved. This offense (simple possession) is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $2,500. However, if you possess half an ounce or more, or if it's a second offense, you can be charged with a felony.

Classification of Controlled Substances in Tennessee

Like many states, Tennessee classifies controlled substances by "schedules." The schedules are based on the drug's level of dangerousness and the connection between a high risk of addiction; in general, the higher the risk for addiction, the greater the danger level. The schedule ranges from Schedule I (drugs including heroin) to Schedule VII which only includes butyl nitrate substances including drugs, more commonly known as poppers.

An Overview of Tennessee Drug Laws

When analyzing a legal issue, you should understand every detail in the statute. However, one way to gain a quick overview of the law is by reading a guide to the statutes written in plain English. Read on to learn about drug laws in Tennessee.


Tennessee Code Annotated:


What's Prohibited


In Tennessee, a simple possession charge is a misdemeanor, but all other violations of drug laws are felonies. It is an offense for a defendant to knowingly:

  • Manufacture a controlled substance;
  • Deliver a controlled substance;
  • Sell a controlled substance; or
  • Possess a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell the controlled substance.

Possible Penalties

The actual penalties will depend on numerous factors including criminal history. Possible penalties include:

  • Forfeiture of property
  • Suspension of driver's license
  • Jail and/or prison time
  • Fines
  • Probation
  • Community service

Sentencing by Schedules

Schedule I (heroin, psychedelics), and II (opiates/opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines) substances

  • Purchase or possession; first offense: incarceration ranging from 2-15 years
  • Purchase or possession; second offense: incarceration ranging from 5-30 years
  • Sale or intent to distribute; first offense: incarceration ranging for 5-30 years
  • Sale or intent to distribute; second offense: incarceration ranging from 10-40 years or life

Schedule III (anabolic steroids), IV (Xanax, Valium) and V (Tylenol with Codeine) substances

  • Purchase or possession; first offense: incarceration ranging from 1-5 years
  • Purchase or possession; second offense: incarceration ranging from 1-10 years
  • Sale or intent to distribute; first offense: incarceration ranging for 1-10 years

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Tennessee Drug Laws: Related Resources

Facing Drug Charges in Tennessee? Find an Attorney

If you're facing drug charges in Tennessee, you should get legal help, especially if you're facing very serious felony charges such as distribution or possession with the intent to sell. Even if you're only facing a first offense charge, an attorney can possibly negotiate a deal to keep your record clean. Get in touch with a Tennessee attorney right away.

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