Drug possession charges filed against a Tennessee medical cannabis user have been dropped. Lewisburg resident, Melody Cashion, was detained following a routine traffic stop after the police officer reported the smell of marijuana. In a recent interview with Nashville’s News Channel 5, Cashion gave her own account of the events, saying, “It was supposedly a rolling stop.”
When questioned about the smell, Cashion was quick to hand over a small amount of cannabis to the officer, less than a gram in total, “enough for two or three joints maybe.” Cashion was arrested and charged with drug possession, a misdemeanor crime in the state of Tennessee, punishable by up to a year in jail.
Recreational and medical cannabis are both illegal in Tennessee; the state is one of only a few remaining U.S. states that has yet to pass legislation protecting patients that have legitimate medical reasons for using medical cannabis, like Melody. Now off of opioid medications, Cashion uses cannabis to manage the debilitating symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a rare, hereditary genetic nerve condition causing chronic pain, and characterized by progressive motor and sensory neuropathy, or nerve damage.
Threatening jail time, state prosecutors allegedly urged her to take a plea deal. Despite her medical condition, said Cashion, “They basically told me I had no defense.” Cashion made the surprising decision to fight the charges, declining the state’s offer of a plea bargain, and instead, choosing to move forward with a trial, saying, “Everybody thought I was crazy.” But she wasn’t crazy. In fact, she won. The drug possession charges against her were subsequently dropped, and this was without her even having to go to court. Thankfully, Cashion’s attorney, Robert Dalton, was well aware of relevant precedent: a recent case in Rutherford County, dubbed “Operation Candy Crush,” where prosecutors were forced to drop similar drug possession charges after being unable to prove that a cannabis edible product, gummies in this case, contained more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
A memo in circulation, written by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), revealed that the department’s current policy is to limit marijuana testing, “only [to] be performed on felony amounts of plant material and at District Attorney’s request if needed for trial.” The wording of that memo has left Tennessee residents charged with misdemeanor cannabis possession in a sort of legal gray-zone. Cashion had been caught with less than a gram of cannabis on her person; without any laboratory testing, the state wasn’t actually able to prove that what they had confiscated from Cashion was, in fact, marijuana.
Local defense attorney Joey Fuson said in response to the TBI’s recent memo, “It calls into question the state’s ability and the TBI’s willingness to test misdemeanor amounts of marijuana.” Added fellow defense attorney Kevin Teets, “We’re going to have a lot of officers upset if they charge cases and they go to court and the cases are dismissed. If they won’t test plant material to tell if it’s marijuana or hemp[,] then the case should be dismissed.”