The History of Marijuana in Tennessee

Tennessee legalized the use of CBD for limited conditions in 2015, but it is still among the many states yet to legalize medical or recreational marijuana. The state’s marijuana policy is quite unusual for Tennessee, considering it has a history with marijuana that dates back to the early 19th century, when pioneer families first arrived. During the War with Mexico, the state legislature petitioned the United States government to help promote hemp production in Tennessee, “Hemp grows luxuriantly upon our River Bottom Lands, but has hitherto been neglected; although it is believed to be more profitable than any other crop that can be raised."

According to the United States Census, Tennessee produced 454 tons of dew-rotted hemp and 141 tons of water-rotted hemp in 1850. The state’s first Commissioner of Agriculture, Joseph Killebrew, reported that hemp cultivation was widely popular throughout Middle Tennessee. This included Bedford, Coffee, Jackson, Marshall, Maury, Williamson, and Sumner counties, where the soil was suitable for hemp. The plants were used for ropes and bagging cotton, so hemp factories became as common as cotton gins in Tennessee. The demand for hemp production continued to increase throughout the United States, which is when Tennessee lost its run as a leading hemp producer.


After making progress on marijuana reform, the legalization movement has stalled in two New England states. Cannabis became legal in Vermont last July, but state lawmakers did not put a regulated market for marijuana in place at that time. So while adults in Vermont can possess, grow and consume cannabis, they can't buy it legally.

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