Becoming a Patient in Tennessee

Tennessee’s medical cannabis law was signed in May 2014, creating an extremely narrow legal exception that does not protect the vast majority of residents. Under the law, licensed physicians can recommend cannabis oil that contains less than 0.9% THC, but only to treat severe seizure disorders. In Tennessee, cannabis must be produced and manufactured by a university as part of an approved clinical trial, and requires any study any study to be “certified by the drug enforcement administration located in the state,” effectively hampering supply. There is no legal protection offered for independent patient caregivers, dispensaries, producers or processors. Recommending physicians must supply a report to Tennessee’s General Assembly by January 2018 on the results of all cannabis research, including the number of patients involved, the parameters of the study and the outcomes of each participant. 

What's Legal

Legal protections for medical cannabis patients in Tennessee are extremely limited. Only patients diagnosed with an uncontrolled seizure disorder who are enrolled in an approved clinical research study may acquire and possess cannabis oil that contains no more than 0.9% THC. The law does not provide clear guidance on how cannabis oil will be produced or distributed, but requires that cannabis oil be produced or distributed by a four-year school of higher education in the state.

Eligible Conditions

  • Must be diagnosed with intractable seizures, no other conditions qualify under Tennessee law
  • Must be enrolled in an approved clinical research study
  • Must be under the care of a physician at a hospital or clinic affiliated with a school of medicine 

Application Process

The law does set forth a formal application process for patients to enroll; however, patients will have to enroll in a clinical research study run by a hospital or clinic affiliated with a school of medicine in Tennessee in order to be legally protected. Consult with medical schools in the state to find out if any clinical research studies are currently available. 


Any physician work on a clinical research study investigating treatment options on uncontrollable seizures may recommend cannabis oil. No other physicians in the state may recommend cannabis oil.


The law does not provide for legal protections to caregivers, and does not clearly address the issue of distribution other than that the cannabis oil must be produced or distributed by a four-year public institution of higher education located in Putnam County.


The law does not restrict where patients may consume cannabis oil.

Age Limits

There are no age restrictions for patients under the Tennessee law.


Although there are no explicit privacy protections, there is no patient registry.


The law does not contain housing discrimination protection for patients.


The law does not contain employment discrimination protection for patients.


The law does not require insurance companies to pay for cannabis oil treatment.

Out of State Patients

SB 280, passed in 2015, allows a person who obtained cannabis oil lawfully in another state to possess it in Tennessee. It must be in a bottle labeled by the manufacturer showing it contains no more than 0.9% THC. The person must have “a legal order or recommendation” from the other state.