Lincoln Memorial University Law Review Archive


Before diving into an abyss of drug history, certain key points and terms of art must be clarified. First, cannabis, marijuana, and marihuana (“cannabis” unless historical context uses otherwise) are the same substance, occurring in natural form as Cannabis Sativa L.[1] Second, cannabis is a Schedule VI controlled substance––not a narcotic drug.[2] While all narcotics are controlled substances,[3] not all controlled substances are narcotics, and it is incorrect (under Tennessee law) to categorize naturally grown cannabis (in plant form) as a narcotic drug.[4] Third, an “ultimate user” is one who may lawfully possess a controlled substance (e.g., oxycodone, amphetamine salts, or cannabis) by virtue of a valid prescription.[5] Forth, one-half ounce of cannabis could provide anywhere from fifty-six days of medical use to upwards of ninety days of use, depending on the patient and consumption rate.[6] Fifth, physicians are authorized to prescribe cannabis in Tennessee.[7]

[1] Compare Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-402(16)(A) (2019) (“‘Marijuana’ means all parts of the plant cannabis”); with The Tennessee Drug Control Act of 1971, §2(n) (defining “marihuana” as “all parts of the plant CANNABIS SATIVA L”); and 21 U.S.C.A. §802 (Westlaw 2019) (“‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L.”).

[2] Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-402(4) (2019) (providing, “’Controlled substance’ means a drug, substance, or immediate precursor in Schedules I through VII of §§ 39-17-403 –– 39-17-416”).

[3] Id.

[4] See, e.g., Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-402(17) (2019) (failing to include marijuana or cannabis in definition of “narcotic drug”). See also 1980 Tenn. AG LEXIS 562 (concluding that “[i]t is apparent…marijuana is not a narcotic drug.”) (emphasis added).

[5] See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-402(26) (2019) (“‘Ultimate user’ means a person who lawfully possesses a controlled substance for the person's own use or for the use of a member of the person's household…”).

[6] If a patient took five “hits” of marijuana each day, one-half (1/2) of an ounce would provide the patient relief for at least fifty-six days. See Jonathan P. Caulkins, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know 22 (2012) (noting that one “’hit’ is about 1/20th of a gram of marijuana”); see also Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418(b) (2019) (listing one-half ounce of marijuana as 14.175 grams). Thus, a patient would use around .25 grams of marijuana for one day of relief.

[7] 2003 Tenn. AG LEXIS 157 (“Read together in pari materia, any controlled substance listed in the enumerated statutes is included within the exception of Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418(a).”).

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