Nashville Criminal Attorney Explains: Tennessee Drug Laws

In 1987 in response to an increase in drug activity, then Governor Ned Ray McWherter initiated the Drug Free Tennessee program which resulted in a variety of programs designed to address a growing drug and alcohol problem not only in Nashville and the major cities, but throughout rural Tennessee as well. As a result, the Tennessee Drug Control Act was passed into law. Specific drugs are placed into categories representing their potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs present the greatest likelihood of abuse while Schedule VII represent the least likelihood of abuse and all classified drugs are referred to as controlled substances. The Tennessee law makes it a crime for a person to knowingly manufacture, deliver, sell or possess a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell the controlled substance.

What are the different Schedules of Drugs in Tennessee?

Schedule I Drugs in Tennessee: Possess a high potential for abuse and there are no accepted medical uses.

Familiar Examples: Heroin, LSD, stimulants, morphine, peyote

Schedule II Drugs in Tennessee: Possess a great potential for abuse, there are some accepted medical uses however those uses are limited or very restricted. Continued use of these drugs may lead to severe psychic or physical dependence.

Familiar Examples: Morphine, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Codein, Methodone

Schedule III Drugs in Tennessee: Possess potential for abuse less than Schedule I or II drugs, has currently accepted medical use in treatment and may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

Familiar Examples: Anabolic Steroids

Schedule IV Drugs in Tennessee: Have a low potential for abuse relative to schedule III substances, has a currently accepted medical use in treatment and may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to Schedule III substances.

Familiar Examples: Pentazocine, Barbital

Schedule V Drugs in Tennessee: Have a low potential for abuse relative to Schedule IV, has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and has limited physical dependence or psychological dependence liability relative to Schedule IV substances.

Familiar Examples: A substance containing not more than 200 mg of codeine per 100 grams.

Schedule VI Drugs in Tennessee include marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols, and synthetic equivalents.

Schedule VII Drugs in Tennessee include butyl nitrite and any isomer of butyl nitrite.

If I’ve been charged with a criminal drug offense in Nashville, do I need a lawyer and what are my potential sentences?

As discussed in a previous Nashville Criminal Lawyer blog, the potential sentences and/or fines depends on a number of factors including the specific criminal offense, the range of the offender and any mitigating or enhancing factors. Tennessee law classifies criminal drug offenses as either a felony or misdemeanor. The criminal justice system is not designed to be navigated without an attorney. If you have been charged with a criminal drug offense in Tennessee, you should always at least consult with a criminal lawyer and discuss your case.

Schedule I Drug Offense – Class B Felony in Tennessee

(Cocaine of more than .5 gram – additional fine of up to $100,000)

Schedule II Drug Offense – Class C Felony in Tennessee (including cocaine if less than .5 grams)

Schedule III Drug Offense – Class D Felony in Tennessee

Schedule IV Drug Offense – Class D Felony in Tennessee

Schedule V Drug Offense – Class E Felony in Tennessee

Schedule VI Drug Offense – With regards to Marijuana, the classification varies depending on the amount.

Marijuana:

-        Less than ½ ounce – Class A Misdemeanor in Tennessee

-        ½ ounce to 10 lbs – Class E Felony plus up to $5,000 fine

-        10 lbs – 70 lbs (or 10 – 19 plants, regardless of weight) – Class D Felony in Tennessee plus up to $50,000 fine

-        20 – 99 marijuana plants (regardless of weight) – Class D Felony in Tennessee plus up to $50,000 fine

-        70 to 300 lbs (or 100 – 499 plants) – Class B Felony in Tennessee plus up to $200,000 fine

-        Greater than 300 lbs or 500+ plants – Class A Felony in Tennessee plus up to $500,000 fine

Schedule VII Drug Offense – Class E Felony in Tennessee

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