Raids on CBD Businesses in Tennessee Leave Patients without Access; Underline Need for Change in Federal Marijuana Laws

Similar Raids Across the Country Indicate Increasing Confusion Over Legality

Rutherford County, Tennessee — Yesterday, DEA agents, detectives from the local sheriff's office, and Smyrna, Murfreesboro, and LaVergne police raided 23 Rutherford County businesses accused of selling candy products containing cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating compound derived from the cannabis (and hemp) plant. Law enforcement claims that the products were of particular concern because they were seemingly being marketed towards minors.

At the moment, it is unclear whether or not the products were legal under current Tennessee law which allows CBD products, including nutritional supplements, pharmaceuticals, and industrial oils as long as they are derived from industrial hemp, which is defined as products derived from plants containing less than .3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). States like Tennessee have been able to develop industrial hemp programs under Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, however there is ongoing conflict between states and the DEA regarding the interpretation and lawfulness  of this provision despite its intent.

What is clear is that these stores were serving patients in need. “I use CBD in my vape, and you can’t even tell you’re using it, but I have essential tremor and it helps me immensely,” said Murfreesboro patient Teresa Long. (As reported by

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) has documented the therapeutic applications of CBD as well as its lack of significant side-effects, even when taken at relatively high doses. Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) states that, “in its pure state, cannabidiol does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm” and recommended to the United Nations that it remain out of the scheduling scheme all together.

“Millions of patients are finding relief through medical cannabis, including CBD, and study after study has shown that well regulated state medical cannabis programs lead to better public health outcomes, as long as there is sufficient access to these products and legal protections. It is time to pass the CARERS Act so that this can occur without federal interference,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access.

These raids, and others like them that have occurred in other states like Indiana, Iowa, and Utah, illustrate the need for state regulated programs and federal legislation to end the conflict between state and federal laws. Despite the DEA creating a rule in 2016 that further clarified CBD as a Schedule I substance, there is growing confusion among patients and producers who feel they are operating in a legal grey area.  

Cases like these underscore the need for Congress to pass permanent legislation like the CARERS Act of 2017 (H.R. 2920 and S. 1764). Among other positive changes, the CARERS Act would remove CBD from the list of controlled substances and prohibit the federal government from prosecuting those participating in state medical cannabis programs as long as they are complying with state law.