Opinions on marijuana use differ; some people favor its legalization while others vehemently oppose it. Regardless of how a person feels, under Tennessee law the possession of marijuana, even in very small amounts, is illegal. The penalties for possessing marijuana include steep fines, jail time, prison time, and community service.
An offender’s criminal history helps determine how much money he or she has to pay and how much jail and/or prison time he or she has to spend. First-time offenders face a fine no more than $2,500 and/or spend no more than a year in jail. Repeat offenders face a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or a maximum term of six years in prison. Although these state penalties for marijuana possession are more or less uniform, each jurisdiction in Tennessee treats marijuana possession differently; therefore, how exactly these penalties are imposed upon offenders varies among the jurisdictions in Tennessee.
Similarly, under federal law, offenders who are charged with marijuana possession must pay a fine of at least $1,000 and spend twelve months or less in jail. Offenders charged a second time face a $2,500 fine. Federal law mandates that second-time offenders spend at least fifteen days, but no more than two years, in prison. Offenders who have been charged and convicted more than twice must pay a fine of $5,000 or less and spend anywhere from three months to three years in prison.
How penalties are assessed
The penalties and fines associated with marijuana possession are assessed differently between the state and the federal government. For example, the penalties established by Tennessee state law apply within Tennessee’s borders and all of its counties; oddly enough, the application of the federal penalties is more limited. Under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, Federal officers can arrest and charge people with marijuana possession only if the offenders acted on federal land, such as the in national parks (like our own Smoky Mountains), in US government buildings (like the Capital Building in Washington, D.C.) and on military bases, or were involved in interstate commerce and foreign importation.
Under federal law, in order to determine whether the charge is a misdemeanor possession charge or a felony marijuana possession charge, we must consider whether the offense was an isolated act, or connected other offenses. As a lone offense, marijuana possession is shelved as a misdemeanor under federal law; however, when linked with marijuana production or distribution, marijuana possession is shelved as a felony and results in harsher consequences. In Tennessee, possession of anything over half an ounce is a felony, which is stricter than what the federal law mandates.
Other factors in assessing the charge might include:
- How much marijuana did the offenders possess?
- Do the offenders have criminal records?
- Did the offenders involve minors in their actions?
If you are charged with possessing or selling marijuana, you may be confused and anxious. The Sevierville drug defense attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan E. Delius are very familiar with the criminal justice process and can help you sort through the confusion. To schedule a consultation, please fill out our contact form. We protect the rights of our clients in and around Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge.
Attorney Bryan E. Delius was born and raised in Sevier County, TN. He founded Delius & McKenzie more than 20 years ago, after receiving his JD from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is admitted in Tennessee and in several federal court systems. Learn more about Bryan E. Delius.