Tennessee Drug Classification and Scheduling

Tennessee’s criminal drug and substance laws can be found under Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 4. Tennessee’s format for scheduling controlled substances mirrors that of many other states and the federal government. At the beginning, you can find TCA §39-17-403, which outlines the factors to be considered when deciding which schedule a particular substance might fit under. It cites the Commissioner of Health and the Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services shall consider:

Tennessee Drug Classification and Scheduling(1) The actual or relative potential for abuse;

(2) The scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known;

(3) The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the substance;

(4) The history and current pattern of abuse;

(5) The scope, duration and significance of abuse;

(6) The risk to the public health;

(7) The potential of the substance to produce psychic or physiological dependence liability; and

(8) Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this section.”

Schedules I Through V

After deciding those factors, a substance will be placed under one of the seven schedules Tennessee has made depending on the severity of the risks/benefits associated. Schedule I is supposed to include the most dangerous drugs, which have the highest risks and the lowest medical benefits. Schedule VII, the last, is supposed to include substances with the least risks and the greatest relative benefits.

Most of the sections are split into two parts, with the first listing the criteria for the schedule, and the second listing the specific drugs and substances included. For example, TCA §39-17-405 lists the criteria for being included in Schedule I: that the drug has a “(1) High potential for abuse; and (2) No accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision.” Then, TCA §39-17-406 goes through the specific Schedule I substances, including various opiates, hallucinogens, stimulants, and depressants.

On the other end, criteria for Schedule V includes substances if “(1) The substance has low potential for abuse relative to the controlled substances listed in Schedule IV; (2) The substance has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and (3) The substance has limited physical dependence or psychological dependence liability relative to the controlled substances listed in Schedule IV.”

Schedules VI and VII

Schedules VI and VII work a little differently. Rather than specifically citing dangers of abuse or benefits of treatment, it says that after considering risk factors, the commissioners have decided that substances listed in VI and VII ought to belong in a different schedule.

Schedule VI specifically targets marijuana, THC, and synthetic equivalents. Schedule VII specifically targets butyl nitrate, more commonly known as “poppers.”

THC levels must be over .03% or else it may be considered CBD. The TBI has been reluctant to test marijuana to determine its THC levels in recent years unless it is a substantial felony weight. We have seen a quantity of four pounds be denied.


After outlining which substances are where, the section includes TCA §39-17-417, where all the specific penalties are found. This law goes down the list, and assigns penalties to offenses based on the schedule of the drug involved, and the amount of that drug found. For example, subsection (b) classifies possession, manufacture, distribution, etc. of a Schedule I substance as a Class B felony, while the same offense involving a Schedule V substance is only a Class E felony according to subsection (f). When the State is determining whether to prosecute a case as a felony, they look to whether there is indicia of resale. Officers and prosecutors are looking for such factors as; quantity of drugs, money, scales, baggies, and anything else that could indicate that a suspect is not holding for personal use.