Ben Swann

Yesterday, the Tennessee General Assembly took the final necessary steps to send legislation to Governor Haslam, which if signed, will nullify the federal ban on hemp.

House Bill 2445 (HB2445), introduced by Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), would mandate that the state authorize the growing and production of industrial hemp within Tennessee, effectively nullifying the unconstitutional federal ban on the same. Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) is the chief Senate sponsor of the legislation.

Local media point to federal law citing hemp production is still banned on the federal level, and that the Tennessee legislation will only set Tennessee up to begin cultivation once the feds change the law. However, the legislation makes no such stipulation with regards to waiting on the feds.

The bill reads, in part:

“The department shall issue licenses to persons who apply to the department for a license to grow industrial hemp.”

Mike Maharrey, communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, noted that one word strengthened the bill considerably. “By including the word ‘shall’ in this legislation, it has a great deal of impact,” he said. “This means that rather than keeping it open-ended like other states have done, hemp farming will be able to move forward in Tennessee whether the regulatory bureaucrats there want it to or not.”

‘Shall’ is a legal term which creates a specific requirement far stronger than a word like ‘will.’ The former is more closely interchangeable with the word “must,” while the latter allows leeway for the object of the term to delay. In this case, the bill states that the Tennessee department of agriculture will have a mandate to license farmers for growing hemp.

Three other states – Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – have already passed bills to authorize hemp farming, but only in Colorado has the process begun.  Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013 and the state began issuing licenses on March 1, 2014. The feds haven’t said a word. In Vermont and Oregon, hemp farming was authorized, but no licensing program was mandated, so implementation has been delayed due to regulatory foot-dragging.


With passage of HB2445, Tennessee will most likely become the 2nd state in the country to actively produce hemp. The legislation also ensures that not only will hemp licenses be issued, but the process for doing so will start quickly. It reads:

The department shall initiate the promulgation of rules … concerning industrial hemp production within one hundred and twenty (120) days of this act becoming law…

Federal laws still remain on the books. However, the United States Department of Justice announced that it would no longer presume enforcement of federal hemp and marijuana laws last August. The announcement delivered a return of state police powers with regards to cannabis strains.

Ben Swann

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