Hemp vs. CBD vs. Weed: What’s Legal in Tennessee?

Hemp vs. CBD vs. Weed: What’s Legal in Tennessee?Tennessee, unlike some of its neighbors, hasn’t legalized medical or recreational marijuana, so getting busted for weed is still illegal. But that doesn’t mean all THC-based products are illegal. For example, cannabis is a plant. Cannabis sativa is a type of cannabis plant. Both weed AND hemp are Cannabis sativa, but only one of them is legal, and not all weed is Cannabis sativa. The distinctions can be a bit confusing, and an error can easily lead to an arrest.

We think it  is important to know the differences between the various types of cannabis “products,” so you don’t end up getting arrested for drug use or possession.

  • Hemp: Hemp is Cannabis sativa that contains less than 0.3 percent of THC. There are several different forms of Hemp, but it is typically given as a seed or oil and placed in ingestible foods or liquids. Many individuals state that Hemp helps them with various medical conditions, such as arthritis, constipation, eczema, and more.
  • CBD: Harvard Medical School explains that cannabidiol, also known as CBD, “is an essential component of medical marijuana.” However, it typically comes from a Hemp plant or is created in laboratories. CBD is usually taken in the form of a pill or placed into food products. Many people use CBD to help them cope with their health conditions, including anxiety, depression, or pain, but it does not give a “high” feeling.
  • Weed: The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes marijuana as “the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant.” Most people smoke weed or inhale it through a vaporizer. However, it can also be ingested after being put into various food products or “edibles.” Weed causes people to feel “high,” which impacts their mental state, alters their moods, impairs their memory, and more.

Are hemp, CBD, and weed legal in Tennessee?

As a recent article published by Knox News points out, it is no secret that Tennessee’s marijuana or cannabis laws are complex and difficult to understand. The article explains how advertising is contradictory with the laws, as a business called Holistic Connection has a storefront sign stating that they have “the best Cannabis Tennessee has to offer.” When people see this sign, they may assume that marijuana is legal, even though it’s not.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation does clearly state that hemp is legal in the state of Tennessee as long as it is below 0.3 percent of THC.

CBD is defined in the article as “an active ingredient in cannabis that is derived from the hemp plant but does not cause a high and is not addictive.” In fact, a lot of researchers have found that CBD can help treat certain medical conditions as mentioned above. If you want to ensure that you are legally using CBD, you must make sure that your CBD products contain 0.3 percent or less of THC just as you would with your hemp products.

What happens if I’m caught with marijuana in Tennessee?

If you are caught with a half-ounce of weed or less, you can be charged with a misdemeanor crime, which could result in a 12-month jail sentence and a fine up to $2,500. The minimum required fine amount for first-time offenders is $250. However, if this is not your first offense and you are considered a repeat offender, you may receive a required minimum fine of at least $500. If you are caught selling over a half-ounce of weed or marijuana in Tennessee, you will be charged with a felony.

Three defenses for a marijuana possession charge in Franklin, TN

There are several different defenses that one of our Franklin marijuana defense lawyers may use to fight against your possession charges. Here are three of the most commonly used defenses:

  1. We may argue that the law enforcement officer found the weed when illegally searching your vehicle, house, or business. Under your Fourth Amendment rights, the officer must have probable cause to conduct a search.
  2. If the officer found another form of cannabis in your possession, such as CBD oil or hemp, we may use the defense that they must examine how much THC the product contains. Since Tennessee allows these products as long as they contain under 0.3 percent of THC, you cannot be charged with possession of marijuana if the product falls under this range. If the substance does exceed the 0.3% threshold but the labeling on the product claims it does not, we can use this as part of your defense.
  3. We may argue that the marijuana isn’t yours. Depending on the circumstances of your case, we may be able to prove that you were never in possession of the drugs at any given time, or that you had no idea there were drugs on the premises.


No matter which defense strategy we use, we will always advocate for an outright dismissal of all charges. If that is not feasible – and sometimes, it simply is not – then we will work to have your charges reduced and the penalties minimized.

If you have been charged with possession of weed, please do not hesitate to reach out to a Franklin criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates at your earliest opportunity. Marijuana possession charges can impact your future in a variety of ways, which is why it is critical that you schedule a consultation with our team right away. Call our office or submit our contact form today. Our firm has locations in Franklin, Brentwood, and Columbia for your convenience.