Confusion grows over legal use of hemp in Tennessee

Posted at 5:20 PM, Oct 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-22 19:44:28-04

Police in Tennessee are having to differentiate between hemp and marijuana more and more often while on calls. That recognition could mean the difference between being placed in handcuffs or going free.

The confusion is leading to the arrest of innocent people.

CBD from hemp is legal in Tennessee. People eat CBD gummies or use CBD oil to treat a variety of ailments.

However, a growing trend toward simply smoking the raw hemp bud for CBD has created even more confusion. Legal hemp looks and smells exactly like marijuana.

Both are cannabis, but different. Marijuana has high levels of psychoactive THC, and is illegal in Tennessee.

Hemp has very little THC, not enough to get you high, and is legal. The problem is police and even drug dogs likely can't tell the difference. 

"So, an officer who sees you smoking a rolled cigarette that smells and looks like marijuana - that's enough to take you into custody," said attorney and legal expert Jim Todd. 

It's an issue, because more people now chose to smoke hemp for CBD instead of taking CBD oil or gummies.

Of course, we saw last year how authorities in Rutherford County mistakenly confiscated legal CBD gummies in the ill-fated Operation Candy crush.

They may know better when it comes to gummies and oil. But if an officer sees someone with hemp plant material or bud and maybe an rolled joint -- they'll have probable cause to take action.

"This is gonna be a huge problem. A lot of people with hemp are going to possibly get arrested," said Todd. 

So what can consumers do? For now, make sure when you buy hemp you get a receipt to show it is a legal purchase.

If available, ask for a printout of the chemical analysis of the plant proving it's legal hemp.

It's now likely with all of the confusion that state lawmakers will step in to further clarify the law related to legal hemp at the next legislative session.