Tennessee Legalized Delta-8 THC, But Only for Adults

If you’re aged 21 or over in Tennessee, delta-8 THC is legal to buy and use.

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Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson is the senior editor at CBD Oracle, and has been covering science, vaping and cannabis for over 10 years. He has a MS in Theoretical Physics from Uppsala...

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Fact checked byNeil Willner

Fact checked by

Neil Willner

Neil M. Willner is an experienced cannabis attorney at Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld LLC and co-chair of the firm's Cannabis Group. He focuses his practice on the cannabis industry and...

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Delta-8 THC flower sold in Tennessee
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Delta-8 THC is legal in Tennessee, but recent changes mean that it can only be bought or possessed by adults aged over 21.

While Tennessee is one of the more restrictive states when it comes to marijuana, the state’s hemp law actually goes beyond the relatively permissive model set by the federal-level Farm Bill.

With the passage of SB 378 in May 2023, the state has opted to expressly permit the manufacture and sale of delta-8 THC as well as other intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids.

Here’s what you need to know about Tennessee hemp law and delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC is legal to sell in Tennessee, because the state’s version of the federal Farm Bill uses the same definitions as federal law. Its status as a final-form product was recently confirmed by a new state law expressly regulating delta-8 THC and creating a new definition of “hemp-derived cannabinoid”.  

Following the enactment of the federal 2018 Farm Bill, Tennessee passed Senate Bill 357. SB 357 removed hemp from the definition of marijuana and descheduled all hemp-derived cannabinoids from the state’s own controlled substances list, including delta-8 and delta-10 THC. This means delta-8, delta-10, CBD, CBN, and all other plant compounds derived from hemp were made officially legal in Tennessee. 

Delta-8, delta-10, HHC, THC-O and other intoxicating cannabinoids are now classed as “hemp-derived cannabinoids” under SB 378, which passed in May 2023. These are still legal to sell, but only to adults aged 21 or over and – starting January 2024 – only by sellers licensed for the purpose.

RELATED: Delta-8 THC Legality by State

Delta-8 THC Legislation Timeline for Tennessee

Delta-8 THC was first legalized in Tennessee with the passage of SB 357 in 2019, and the law was modified in May 2023, while still maintaining its legality.

Prior to the federal 2018 Farm Bill, delta-8 THC was illegal in Tennessee under the state’s controlled substances act, which lists specific THC isomers, including delta-8 THC (using the old numbering system). However, the passage of SB 357 exempted all hemp-derived cannabinoids from the controlled substances act, thus legalizing delta-8 THC.

The 2023 bill SB 378 makes some refinements to the state’s hemp law. It creates a category of “hemp-derived cannabinoids” (including delta-8, delta-10, HHC, THC-O, THCp, THCv and THCa) and institutes requirements for them. These include requiring licenses for the production or sale of hemp-derived cannabinoid products, making it illegal to sell to anyone under 21 or for anyone under-age to possess them, instituting a lab testing requirement, adding requirements for packaging and presentation, and taxing sales at 5%.

Can Delta-8 THC Be Added to Food?

Delta-8 THC cannot technically be added to food in Tennessee, because it would contradict the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). No state law challenges this, but in practice delta-8 THC edibles are available in the state.

The FDA’s interpretation of the FD&C Act is clear: since delta-8 THC is not generally recognized as safe, it cannot be legally added to foods. Technically this only relates to interstate commerce, but with no specific regulations addressing the issue in Tennessee, the FD&C Act’s rules apply in the state too. 

That said, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture – which regulates food within the state – has issued a guidance document titled “Concerns Associated with Cannabis Extractions, Concentrations, Infusions, and Infused Foods.”  In the guidance document, the Department of Agriculture does not expressly state delta-8 THC or hemp cannabinoids is an impermissible food additive. In fact, it provides food safety advice for products including cannabis extractions.

In short, despite no explicit law permitting them, you can find delta-8 THC edibles for sale in CBD stores around the state and it seems to be broadly tolerated.

Can You Buy Delta-8 THC in Tennessee?

Delta-8 thc pre-rolls sold in Tennessee
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Buying delta-8 THC in Tennessee is legal and easily accessible. You can purchase delta-8 THC products online or through licensed CBD dispensaries, many of which are located in the Nashville, Knoxville, and Cookeville areas. 

RELATED: The Best Delta-8 THC Brands

Delta-8 Alternatives You Can Legally Buy in Tennessee

You can legally buy hemp delta-9 THC, delta-10 THC, HHC and even THC-O – among others – in Tennessee if you’re over 21 years of age. These are all included in the category of “hemp-derived cannabinoids” as established by SB 378.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC?

Are There Age Restrictions on Delta-8 THC Products?

As of July 1st, 2023, only adults aged 21 and over can legally buy delta-8 THC products in Tennessee. These changes were brought in by SB 378, which was signed by Governor Bill Lee on May 11th, 2023.

Can You Consume Delta-8 THC in Public in Tennessee?

Marijuana flower sold in Tennessee

While there is technically no limitation on consuming delta-8 THC edibles in public, vaping or smoking delta-8 THC products in most enclosed public spaces is banned in Tennessee.

The Non-Smoker Protection Act limits the places that you’re allowed to smoke in the state, and basically amounts to a ban on indoor smoking in all public places in the state. It’s important to note that vaping products are included in this, since the state defines “smoking” to include them.

However, the state’s hemp laws (SB 357 and SB 378) don’t discuss limitations on using hemp products in public places. In short, technically it isn’t illegal to smoke/vape delta-8 in places you can smoke cigarettes or to use edibles anywhere, but it’s probably still not wise if there’s a cop around.

Can You Drive Under the Influence of Delta-8 THC in Tennessee?

It is illegal to drive under the influence of delta-8 THC in Tennessee, just like it’s illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana or alcohol.

Tennessee’s DUI law uses the phrase “any intoxicant,” and so since delta-8 THC is intoxicating, it is automatically included in the law. Additionally, SB 378 also specifically states (page 7, section 43-27-210(a)(2)) that it doesn’t permit a person to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of a hemp-derived cannabinoid.   

The punishment for a first offense is a fine of between $350 and $1,500, and your driving license being suspended for one year. You can also be jailed for between 48 hours and just under a year, and complete three 8-hour shifts of litter collection.

Can You Travel to Tennessee With Delta-8?

Yes. You can travel into Tennessee with any hemp-derived delta-8 THC product carrying no more than 0.3% THC. Tennessee state law does not prohibit the transportation of hemp and hemp-derived products across its borders.

However, if you have hemp-derived delta-8 products in your possession and the state border forces a stop and search, we recommend keeping proof of receipts and Certificates of Analysis with you. Why? Because these documents help verify the legality of your delta-8 products.

Closing Thoughts: The Future for Delta-8 in Tennessee

After the passage of SB 378 in May 2023, there is unlikely to be any further major changes for delta-8 THC this year. One bill clarifies punishments established by SB 378, but other than that (and similar bills addressing details of the existing laws), there are no hemp-related laws pending.

This year saw renewed efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use in the state. However, the medical use bill was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the legalization bill – the wonderfully named Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act (FACT Act) – is likely to meet a similar fate in the coming months. Even a proposal to put a non-binding referendum on marijuana issues to voters was shot down.

It seems Tennessee’s “hemp-derived cannabinoid” industry will continue based on state law, although federal-level changes could affect delta-8 THC’s legality in the coming months.

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