Tennessee Sale of a Controlled Substance Laws

Learn about the penalties for selling drugs in Tennessee.

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All states regulate and control the sale of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for sale. Tennessee classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as CDS, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

This article discusses the illegal manufacture and sale of CDS only. Illegally possessing CDS for personal use carries different penalties. For more information on possession of CDS for personal use, see Possession of Controlled Substances in Tennessee.

Also, while marijuana is considered a CDS, this article does not cover Tennessee’s marijuana possession and sale laws. To learn more about that topic, see Tennessee Marijuana Laws.

How Tennessee Classifies CDS

Tennessee divides CDS into seven “Schedules.” Schedule I lists the most dangerous drugs, which have a high probability of abuse and addiction, and no recognized medical value. Schedules II, III, IV, and V decrease in dangerousness and probability of abuse, and increase in recognized medical uses. Schedule VI includes marijuana and cannabis extracts (and is not covered in this article), and Schedule VII includes Butyl nitrite and its isomers.

If you’ve been arrested for illegal CDS production or sales, you’ll need to consult the Tennessee Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group. Go to the statute (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-406, -408, -410, -412, -414, & -416) and find the substance you're charged with possessing -- it will be listed under one of the seven schedules. (To find these statutes using the above link, choose Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 4.)

Penalties for Making or Selling CDS

It is illegal in Tennessee to make or sell CDS (or possess CDS with the intent do these things). Penalties vary according to the schedule and type of the CDS involved. (Tenn. Code Ann. §39-17-417.)

Schedule I CDS, and specified amounts of cocaine or methamphetamine

It is a class B felony to make or sell Schedule I CDS, or 0.5 grams or more of cocaine or methamphetamine (or less than 0.5 grams, if the defendant carried or used a deadly weapon during the offense, or if the offense resulted in another person’s death or serious bodily injury). Penalties include a fine of up to $100,000, at least eight (and up to 30) years in prison, or both. The defendant will also be required to make restitution (pay money) to the government or private property owner for any property damage that resulted from the offense (for example, to cover the costs of cleaning up a former meth lab).

Schedule II CDS, and specified amounts of other CDS

It is a class C felony to make or sell Schedule I CDS, 0.5 grams or less of cocaine or methamphetamine (unless the defendant carried or used a deadly weapon, as explained above), or any amount of flunitrazepam. Penalties include a fine of up to $100,000, at least three (and up to 15) years in prison, or both; and restitution.

Schedule III and IV CDS

Making or selling a Schedule III or IV CDS is a class D felony. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, at least two (and up to 12) years in prison, or both.

Schedule V CDS

Making or selling a Schedule V CDS is a class E felony, punishable with a fine of up to $5,000, at least one (and up to six) year in prison, or both.

Schedule VII CDS

Making or selling a Schedule V CDS is a class E felony, punishable with a fine of up to $1,000, at least one (and up to six) year in prison, or both.

Other specified CDS

It is a class A felony to make or sell (or conspire to make or sell) specified amounts of the following substances. Penalties include a fine of up to $500,000, at least 15 (and up to 60) years in prison, or both. Making or selling certain specified lesser amounts is a class B felony, punishable with a fine of up to $200,000, at least eight (and up to 30) years in prison, or both.

  • heroin
  • morphine
  • hydromorphone
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • cocaine
  • pentazocine or tripelennamine
  • phencyclidine (PCP)
  • barbituric acid
  • phenmetrazine
  • amphetamine or methamphetamine
  • peyote, and
  • Schedule I CDS not listed in Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-406(i)(1)-(11)

Selling to a Minor

Selling, or conspiring to sell CDS to a minor (someone younger than 18) incurs a fine and prison term for an offense one classification higher than the underlying crime. For example, if the crime would normally be a class C felony, but the defendant sold CDS to a minor, the defendant would face penalties applicable to a class B felony instead. (Tenn. Code Ann. §39-17-417(k).)

Drug Free Zones

In addition to the fines and prison time described above, the following additional fines apply to offenses committed in drug-free zones (areas on or within 1,000 feet of a school, library, park or recreational area). (Tenn. Code Ann. §39-17-432.)

  • class A felonies—$100,000
  • class B felonies— $60,000
  • class C felonies— $40,000
  • class D felonies— $20,000
  • class E felonies—$10,000

Talk to an Attorney

CDS manufacture or sale convictions can incur harsh fines and long periods of incarceration. A local lawyer who practices CDS defense will review the facts of your case, explain your options, and advise you of the possible consequences.

by: , Contributing Author

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