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Felony Drug Offense

A drug charge can often be a felony offense that can seriously damage your record and your reputation. In Tennessee, a person may be convicted of a Felony Drug Offense if the state prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the person knowingly:

  1. Manufactured a Controlled Substance; or
  2. Delivered a Controlled Substance; or
  3. Sold a Controlled Substance; or
  4. Possessed a Controlled Substance with the Intent to Manufacture, Deliver, or Sell it.

If you have been charged with a drug offense, you should seek help from the Knoxville criminal defense attorneys at the Oberman & Rice Law Firm.

[Source: Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-17-417]

What is a Controlled Substance?

“Controlled substance” means a drug, substance, or immediate precursor to a drug (e.g., cannabis seeds in the case of marijuana and pseudoephedrine for methamphetamine). Illegal drugs and many prescription drugs are grouped together into seven categories, which are referred to by law as “Schedules.”

Each Schedule contains drugs with similar risks of addiction, medical benefits, and potential for abuse, regardless of whether the drug is illegal by nature (e.g., Heroin, Cocain, LSD, etc.) or may be lawfully prescribed (Alprazolam, Hydrocodone, Amphetamine, etc.). In general, Schedule I drugs are considered to have the highest potential for abuse and are not known to have any accepted medical use. In contrast, Schedule V-VII drugs are believed to have a much lower potential for abuse and risk to the public health.

The following is a partial list of the drugs in each Schedule:

  • Schedule I: Heroin, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy), Psilocybin (Mushrooms), and Mescaline;
  • Schedule II: Hydrocodone, Oxycodone (Percocet®, Endocet®, Roxicet®, and Oxycontin®), Opium, Codeine, Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®), Methadone (Dolophine®), Meperidine (Demerol®), Fentanyl (Sublimaze® or Duragesic®); Amphetamine (Dexedrine®, Adderall®), Methylphenidate (Ritalin®), Cocaine, Amobarbital, Glutethimide, and Pentobarbital;
  • Schedule III: Hydrocodone in dosage amounts less than 15 mg (Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®), Ketamine, and Anabolic Steroids;
  • Schedule IV: Propoxyphene (Darvon® and Darvocet-N 100®), Alprazolam (Xanax®), Clonazepam (Klonopin®), Clorazepate (Tranxene®), Diazepam (Valium®), Lorazepam (Ativan®), Midazolam (Versed®), Temazepam (Restoril®), and Triazolam (Halcion®);
  • Schedule V: Smaller dosages of certain Schedule IV substances;
  • Schedule VI: Marijuana and Hashish.
  • Schedule VII: Butyl nitrate.

[Source: Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 39-17-402 to 39-17-416]

The Penalties

Tennessee law specifies that the fines (as great as $100,000), sentence lengths (as long as 60 years in prison), periods of required prison time, and court costs for Felony Drug Offenses vary significantly and depend upon:

  1. The amount of controlled substance(s) seized by law enforcement;
  2. The type of controlled substance(s) seized by law enforcement;
  3. Whether a deadly weapon was carried or employed during the commission the offense; and
  4. Whether the controlled substances were located within 1000 feet of the property of a school (including preschools), childcare agency, public library, recreational center, or park.
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In general, Felony Drug Offense laws are complex and require a careful review of the facts by a knowledgeable and experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer.

[Source: Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 39-17-417, 39-17-428, 39-17-432]

Other Consequences of a Felony Drug Conviction

In addition to the court-mandated penalties described above, a person convicted of Felony Drug Offense may also experience serious collateral (other) consequences. A Felony Drug conviction may result in the loss of college scholarships or the ability to seek admission to a higher learning institution. A conviction may also impact one’s ability to maintain or seek employment, and result in negative action to a professional license (e.g., nursing).

Except in rare circumstances a conviction for Felony Drug Offense will ALWAYS stay on a person’s public record (criminal history). This means that current and future employers may access records of Tennessee criminal convictions. For more information about Tennessee expungement law, visit our sister website,

Why Hire An Attorney Immediately?

It is important to act quickly in order to gather and preserve favorable evidence. Key evidence (faces, dates, events, and conversations) fades from memory over time. Certain witnesses need to be interviewed as soon as possible. Also, video recordings and other evidence may be destroyed, so it’s crucial to begin your investigation as soon as possible. Success or failure in any criminal case may be determined in the decisions of the defendant and his or her Tennessee Criminal Attorney in only a few hours or days after an arrest is made.

Contact Us Today

If you or someone you know has recently been charged, contact the Oberman & Rice Law Firm today so that we can begin preparing a defense for your case. Submit your information for a free case evaluation from our Knoxville drug attorneys or call our office at 865-249-7200.

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Tennessee Introduces 2022 Cannabis Bill

Tennessee just turned heads in the cannabis world by introducing a 2022 legalization bill.

A lawmaker introduced this bill to the 2022 ballot. Representative Bruce Griffey, a Republican from District 75, is behind the bill, known as House Bill 1634.

The bill will require county election commissions to each include three questions related to legalizing cannabis. The questions must be-non-binding and will appear on the November 2022 ballot.

Then, the secretary of state will be required to compile the results of a public policy opinion poll conducted about cannabis and reveal the results to members of the general assembly.

Tennessee and Medical Cannabis

This is not the first major move the state has made this summer relating to cannabis. Tennessee’s medical cannabis bill recently passed its first Senate committee, but unfortunately failed in the second one. However, there was one small victory, as the legislature approved a study commission and expanded the local CBD law.

Tennessee still does not have legal, medical cannabis, and is only one of 14 states that still does not have a medical system in place. Senate Bill 854 was sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling and would have legalized medical cannabis for certain patients and developed a Medical Cannabis Commission that would have regulated the production and sale of cannabis. While the Senate Government Operations Committee approved the bill back in March, it was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee later that month.

However, while the bill did not pass, Senate Bill 118, a bill that creates a study commission to look further into medical cannabis, is required to report to the legislature about legal cannabis by the end of the year. This bill also expands CBD in the state, allowing more medical conditions to be eligible for stronger CBD oil for treating pain and illness.

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Tennessee is also in the minority of states that still penalize simple possession of cannabis with jail time. Only 18 percent of states still do that, and in Tennessee, it’s unfortunately a reality that half an ounce of cannabis or less can result in almost a year in prison.

Tennessee Backs Legal Cannabis

Currently, 81 percent of voters in the state support allowing patients and doctors to make decisions about medical cannabis, so it seems that there will be progress made on the medical front, and it’s likely that at least a significant portion of voters will back legal cannabis if it is put on the 2022 ballot.

Additionally, Tennessee voters seem to support cannabis across the board, but the state doesn’t have a voter initiative process. Since only elected officials can change state law, the ballot initiative for 2022 won’t directly make legalization happen, but it is a huge step forward for the conservative state.

While cannabis does not have a legal program currently in Tennessee for medical or recreational product, there is an exception allowing for high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil if patients suffer from seizures. Both possession and cultivation are illegal, and possession of any amount is a misdemeanor punishable with prison time. Cultivation of 10 plants or less is a felony and can lead to six years in prison, more if the person in question was growing more plants.

Finally, in 2016, the law was changed somewhat so that someone facing a third cannabis conviction no longer automatically leads to a felony charge and up to six years in prison. Now, that has been reduced to a misdemeanor so that folks who use cannabis won’t have a felony on their permanent records.

Tennessee Cannabis Laws as they Stand

Additionally, the state is blocking efforts to further decriminalization. Memphis and Nashville have both passed ordinances that allow officers to charge folks with a civil infraction instead for small possession offenses. But then the governor at the time, Bill Haslam, signed a bill that specialties state law preempts local government when it comes to regulation of substances.

For the sake of advocates in Tennessee, we hope change is on the horizon.