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The Tennessee Code states that it is a Class A misdemeanor for a person to distribute a small amount of marijuana not in excess of one-half ounce. If the possession is greater than this amount, then the defendant may be charged with possession with intent to sell or some other related felonious drug offense.

However, in July 2020 the Nashville Attorney General announced that the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office will no longer prosecute simple possession of marijuana charges. The rationale is that low-level marijuana charges disproportionately impact minority communities and such charges do very little to promote the public health.

This decision does NOT legalize marijuana in Nashville. Pursuant to the Tennessee Code, possession of marijuana is still very much illegal, and prosecutors in other counties will attempt to convict you under this statute. Also, the Nashville District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the simple possession charge if the charge is brought with something else, such as driving while intoxicated or unlawful possession of a weapon. Lastly, possession in excess of a one-half ounce of marijuana will be prosecuted.

Marijuana and Probable Cause

Although simple possession of marijuana will not be prosecuted by the Davidson County district attorney’s office, marijuana is still illegal, thereby granting police probable cause to search. For example, let us say you are in a vehicle smoking a joint when the police pull you over for a traffic violation. Although possession of a joint (less than a one-half ounce) would not be prosecuted, there are other legal implications. First, you can be arrested for driving while impaired. Alternatively, the presence of the marijuana smell or if the joint is in plain view gives the police officer probable cause to search the vehicle for evidence of more marijuana. If you have something else in your vehicle, such as an illegal weapon or a different controlled substance, the police can legally seize it.


The legalization of CBD is creating a maelstrom of legal issues in the criminal courts. CBD looks, smells, and smokes the same as marijuana and is rarely distinguishable from marijuana without lab testing. If you are wrongfully charged with simple possession or casual exchange of marijuana or possession with intent to sell, you must contact the criminal defense attorneys with Baker Associates immediately. We will diligently review the facts of your case to ensure that your rights and your future are protected.

Synthetic Cannabis

When synthetic cannabis first went on sale in the early 2000s, it was often marketed as herbal incense or "smoking blends" and sold under various brand names in head shops, gas stations and online. It was years later, in 2008, when a laboratory analysis revealed the drugs to actually contain a complex variety of synthetic Cannabinoids. In 2012, Tennessee legislators amended a law making it illegal to possess, produce or distribute any "imitation controlled substances," including synthetic cannabis like Spice, JH/Kush and K2. Those arrested for crimes related to the drug may face a misdemeanor or even a felony charge.

According to HB 2286, it is a Class E felony for an individual "to knowingly manufacture, deliver, sell, or possess with the intent to sell, deliver or manufacture an imitation controlled substance." A conviction may result in a fine of up to $3,000 in addition to a period of incarceration. Possessing and/or using synthetic cannabis is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail in addition to a fine between $250 and $2,500.

Although the Nashville District Attorney’s Office may not prosecute a simple possession of marijuana charge, they will certainly prosecute you for possession of synthetic cannabis.