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Tennessee hemp products industry worries: Could new regulations stop sales in state?

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Tennessee hemp products industry worries: Could new regulations stop sales in state?


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Michael Soloman, one of Tennessee’s leading sellers of legal cannabis, believes the state is engaging in regulatory bait and switch.

On the one hand, a new law went into effect last year, regulating the sale of hemp-derived products to those 21 and older, seemingly cementing into place what had already become a growing, Tennessee-based industry of legalized non-marijuana cannabis. After all, such products have been legal nationally since 2018.

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On the other, the state’s Department of Agriculture, which is drafting specific rules for the new law, is considering restrictions on a chemical in certain hemp products, THC-A (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). THC-A is legal but mimics the effects of a traditional marijuana “high” when it’s burned or turned into certain edible products.

THC-A products are, by far, the most popular products being sold now in Tennessee, Soloman said, and people want them for a variety of reasons. And, a state ban on sales, he added, wouldn’t prohibit a Tennessean from buying these products online.

But it could impact Nashville business owners.

“It’s really just killing the local industry,” said Soloman, the owner of a chain of legal cannabis shops in Tennessee known as The Holistic Connection. He also owns Buds and Brews, a cannabis-themed restaurant in Nashville, and Tri-Star Medical & Craft Cannabis. 

“It’s not making these products illegal. It’s just going to make these products illegal to sell (in Tennessee). “These products are some of the most sought-after products that the people want for many different reasons.”

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No such restriction on THC-A was written into the law itself, so many hemp product supporters feel betrayed by the state and believe it could ruin the burgeoning Tennessee industry.

Meanwhile, thse products are still federally legal, thus obtainable through the mail.

In Maryville, Tennessee, Lori Nanney, the owner of Tokers Inc., is worried about the future of her business.

“THC-A is 85% of all retail sales,” Nanney said. “It’s going to eliminate most consumables, all smokeables, all cartridges, all dabs (a concentrated form of cannabis commonly smoked or vaped), all flower( the leafy form of cannabis), and it’s going to eliminate most edibles.

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“This is going to destroy the entire industry. These people (in the business) are not going to have homes in a few months if this goes the way it’s going.”

On Thursday, the Department of Agriculture held a hearing to receive opinions from the public on the proposed rule changes. As of this week, it received more than 2,000 written public comments.

Scores turned out to mostly criticize the inclusion of THC-A in the new rules. Some said they’d turn to the black market or travel out of state for marijuana if that happened. Others, who operate legal cannabis businesses, said they’ll be forced to shut down.

Others complained of government overreach.

Kim Doddridge, the spokesperson for the department, did not respond directly to such claims. She said only: “After this, what I will call a ‘listening session’ we’re going to take those comments and what changes need to be made to the proposed rules.”

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Isn’t marijuana illegal in Tennessee?

Yes. It is illegal to possess or sell marijuana for recreational and nearly all medical reasons in Tennessee. However, state law allows for some exceptions for low-THC/high-CBD oils for use by people with certain health conditions.

Otherwise, penalties start at up to one year in jail and a $250 fine for a first-time offense for possessing up to a half-ounce of marijuana.

However, in 2018, the U.S. Congress removed hemp and hemp products from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances, opening the door to products that approximate the effects of marijuana, such as THC-A and “Delta-8” THC products.

Some states have outlawed them. That has not happened in Tennessee.

What’s the difference between “traditional” marijuana and Delta-8?

Traditional marijuana highs come from what’s known as “Delta-9” THC products. There are hemp-derived Delta-9 products sold in Tennessee, but they must contain less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC by weight.

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Delta-8 THC products have not been traditionally regulated as a controlled substance but can be manufactured from hemp and, thus is widely legal — including in Tennessee. Users say it produces a milder high. However federal regulators have warned that it can produce adverse effects.

Another legal hemp product that has been on the market for a while, CBD, does not produce a high.

Hazy legal distinction

The confusing set of state and federal laws governing cannabis is driving much of this current controversy.

At issue is the inclusion of the currently legal THC-A in the definition of the currently illegal THC in rules governing legal hemp products in Tennessee.

THC provides the psychoactive effect that marijuana is known for. THC-A doesn’t unless it’s exposed to heat, a process known as decarboxylation. THC-A plant flowers are also grown in such a way that they are considered hemp and don’t run afoul of federal law.

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It’s a hazy legal distinction.

Because of this, Tennessee hemp-product industry insiders say, THC-A products constitute the vast majority of the market here. They also note that banning their sale here won’t stop their use. They’re legal federally and thus available to buy online. State law also does not prohibit their use or possession.

The Department of Agriculture will review all comments received by Feb. 9 and work to develop final rules. They will then be sent to the state Attorney General’s Office for review and forwarded to the Secretary of State’s Office. They will be effective 90 days after that. There are no further public hearings planned on the matter.

Ultimately, the new rules must be in place by July 1.

Frank Gluck is the health care reporter for The Tennessean. He can be reached at fgluck@tennessean.com. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @FrankGluck.

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Tennessee

Tony Vitello recaps Vols' run-rule win against East Tennessee State

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Tony Vitello recaps Vols' run-rule win against East Tennessee State


No. 8 Tennessee (4-1) defeated East Tennessee State (3-1), 16-0 in seven innings, on Wednesday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Wednesday’s contest was the second of a 15-game homestand for the Vols.

Tennessee’s pitching combined for a one-hitter against the Buccaneers.

Freshman Dylan Loy (1-0) made his Tennessee debut on Wednesday. He pitched one inning, recording two strikeouts, while not allowing a hit, run or walk.

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Christian Moore, Colby Backus, Billy Amick and Dean Curley hit home runs for Tennessee in the contest.

Following the Vols’ run-rule win against East Tennessee State, Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello met with media. His postgame press conference can be watched below.



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Tennessee pastors stand against bill restricting flags in classrooms

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Tennessee pastors stand against bill restricting flags in classrooms


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – Tennessee pastors have taken a public stand against a new bill up for discussion today.

The Tennessee Senate’s Education Committee will meet at 3 p.m. on Feb. 21 to vote on whether or not to pass SB 1605, a bill prohibiting the display of any flags other than the U.S. and official Tennessee state flag in public schools.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood).

Pastors across the state have actively voiced their disapproval of the proposed legislation.

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“As a Christian pastor, I believe no matter their backgrounds, races, or where they live in the state, every child deserves to attend a safe and welcoming school where they can learn and grow,” said John Gill, pastor at the Church of the Savior, UCC in Knoxville. “We are a richly diverse state made up of citizens and families of many different backgrounds and perspectives, all of whom deserve to feel at home in our state and have the constitutional right to free speech.”

Last September, the Williamson County School Board discussed the potential removal of Pride flags from classrooms in the district. Former students, parents, teachers, and other interested citizens argued both for the flags to be allowed and for them to be removed.

Pastor Gill released the full statement below on behalf of the Southern Christian Coalition:

“As a Christian pastor, I believe no matter their backgrounds, races, or where they live in the state, every child deserves to attend a safe and welcoming school where they can learn and grow. We are a richly diverse state made up of citizens and families of many different backgrounds and perspectives, all of whom deserve to feel at home in our state and have the constitutional right to free speech.

“Unfortunately, Governor Lee and Tennessee’s supermajority legislature, with a bill championed by Representative Gino Bulso, are planning to ban all flags, and even stickers, from classrooms across the state with the exception of the American, Tennessee, and some other flags dictated by them, which apparently may include Confederate flags.

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“This effort is a huge waste of government time and effort that should be focused on the concrete needs and concerns of Tennesseans, like the cost of food and rent, affordable housing, access to medical care, and so on. It is yet another example of government intrusiveness into school classrooms and the lives of the citizens and families of TN. And it’s just their latest attempt to create and exploit divisions and fears among us so they can hold onto power, denying us the basic freedoms, resources, and respect all people deserve, such as fully funded public schools and safe communities. But we will not let them continue to divide us.

“As a pastor, it’s my job to promote the Christian teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves, which in our time certainly must include ensuring that our educational spaces celebrate every individual’s inherent worth. So I am here to join with parents, community members, and elected leaders to come together across race and other differences to stop this harmful legislation and instead continue to ensure that as a community, we will safeguard our children’s freedom to be themselves, and to learn and thrive in school, with the unfettered guidance of both their families and educational professionals.”



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VolReport – Rick Barnes’ halftime decision paid off for Vols in win over Missouri

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VolReport  –  Rick Barnes’ halftime decision paid off for Vols in win over Missouri


Moments after Tennessee played perhaps its worst half of basketball all season, Rick Barnes contemplated making a change to the lineup.

The No. 5 Vols were on the ropes against the SEC’s last place Missouri Tigers at Mizzou Arena Tuesday night, trailing by three at halftime as a result of uncharacteristic turnovers and several scoring droughts.

Barnes’ decision, made after looking over the stat sheet, didn’t just help Tennessee avoid a disastrous upset—It completely changed the trajectory of the game, turning a deficit into a double-digit lead more than halfway through en route to a 72-67 victory that kept the Vols well within reach of a conference title.

TALK ABOUT IT IN THE ROCKY TOP FORUM.

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It started with moving away from Tennessee’s smaller lineup, which was coming off one of the most productive outings of the season three days before against Vanderbilt, and putting the game in the hands of its bigs.

Forwards Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka were dominant in the paint in the second half and while superstar guard Dalton Knecht got the offense rolling with 13 minutes left, it was their presence that made the difference.

“I told the team at halftime, I went down by the numbers and I said, ‘How about letting (Aidoo and Awaka) play a little bit? You know, let’s get them involved,’” Barnes said. “And they did…I thought both guys were playing with force.”

Aidoo scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, further proving himself as one of the top forwards in the league, but Awaka’s performance was the headliner.

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Though Awaka was expected to make a significant jump this season after an impressive freshman campaign a year ago, seeing extended minutes on the floor has been hard to come by because of foul trouble.

Awaka played 22 minutes, the most he has recorded in a conference game this season. He totaled a career and game-high 18 points on 75% shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double.

MORE FROM VOLREPORT: Key takeaways: Knecht is why the Vols are poised for a successful March

When Tennessee entered the locker room at the intermission, it was losing on the boards, 22-20 while shooting just 30% from the field. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Vols held a 39-34 edge in rebounds and shot more than 55%.

“I obviously wasn’t happy with the fact that the way we were playing offense (in the first half), everything that we talked about. We lost our poise again where everybody’s trying to go one-on-one,” Barnes said. “We didn’t know where shots were coming from. And if you don’t know where shots were coming from, because we weren’t executing and what we’re supposed to do, we’re not in position to rebound the ball…

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“First half, I thought (Missouri) beat us on all the 50-50 balls. And the second half, we came out, fought forward. The post guys got it done for us tonight.”

The efforts of Aidoo and Awaka provided Knecht with a strong supporting cast as he put on another second half spectacular, turning just two first half points—both free throws—into a 17-point showing.

MORE FROM VOLREPORT: Tennessee basketball uses second half to down Missouri on the road

After Missouri took its largest lead to that point at six points in the early-going of the period, Aidoo kept Tennessee within striking distance with a layup. An Awaka jumper helped the Vols withstand another Tigers run a few minutes later.

Then Knecht started to take over.

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He started with a jumper, his first field goal of the night, with 13 minutes, 18 seconds left and then followed it up with a 3-pointer. Knecht put Tennessee ahead for good with a layup with just over 10 minutes to go.

That lead swelled to 11—Tennessee’s largest at that point—with four minutes left off an Awaka dunk. It was the exclamation point on a career night that couldn’t have come at a better time.

“(Knecht) got going. I mean, that’s what he does,” Barnes said. “…And we got two big guys in there, let those guys come and make a play.”



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