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Tennessee Valley Authority Warns It Won’t Power Cannabis Operations |

Last week, the Tennessee Valley Authority informed millions of its customers that it would not provide electricity for cannabis production facilities operating under state law. This announcement was made the day after Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed legislation legalizing medical cannabis in the state.

Tennessee Valley Authority is a federally-owned utility that supplies electricity to over 500,000 customers. The TVA also provides power in parts of six other southern States, including Northeast Mississippi. The following statement was obtained from the Northeast Mississippi Daily JournalThe TVA stated that marijuana remains a federally banned substance despite state cannabis reforms.

“While some states have enacted (or may soon enact) laws permitting the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes, marijuana, regardless of its intended use, remains a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970,” the TVA wroteIts statement. “Federal resources and funds may not be purposely used to facilitate activity that potentially violates federal law.”

“Given this important point, TVA will not direct any federal resources or funds to the cultivation and/or distribution of marijuana,” the agency added.

The TVA statement went on to warn that if a TVA employee learns that a local power company is supplying electricity to a customer that “is engaged in activity that may violate federal law governing marijuana, the employee will report the activity to their management, and TVA management will make a determination regarding our reporting obligations to agencies that may have proper jurisdiction to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act.”

Several local electric utilities in northeastern Mississippi including Tupelo Power & Light, Oxford Utilities, North East Mississippi Electric Power Association and the Tombigbee Electric Power Association are supplied with electricity by the TVA. However, a representative of the wholesaler didn’t clarify whether local power companies will be prohibited from providing electricity to cannabis producers.

“I would refer you back to the language in the statement,” TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks told the Daily Journal.

TVA claimed that it had reached out federal authorities, including the Department of Justice in order to confirm that its actions were consistent with federal standards. The electricity provider also said that it welcomed guidance from Congress “that could further inform TVA’s position.”

Congressmen criticize TVA warning

After news of the TVA warning broke this week, two Democratic U.S. congressmen, Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Tennessee’s Steve Cohen, wrote a letter to the agency criticizing its announcement. Representatives from the Congressional Cannabis Caucus stated that TVA is required by federal law to provide electricity for all customers within its service area. They also noted that the warning from the electric utility coincided with last week’s signing of a medical cannabis legalization bill by Mississippi Governor Reeves.

“The actions outlined in the February 2 memo, issued on the same day as Mississippi’s enactment of a medical marijuana program, disregard the democratic will of the people of Mississippi,” they wrote. “Any suggestion of requiring TVA employees to report end-use customers suspected of engaging in activity involving marijuana is an affront to the people who voted in support of a medical cannabis program, to say nothing of the state legislature and governor, who overwhelmingly enacted a medical cannabis program. “

“Mississippi joined 36 other states in legalizing cannabis for medicinal use, a big step forward for the health and well-being of Mississippians,” Cohen said in a statement. “But TVA is blatantly ignoring that development by threatening to turn in legal cannabis businesses in Mississippi to federal agents. These policies are outdated, unpopular, and scientifically baseless.”

Blumenauer, Cohen, and Cohen asked the TVA to retract the statement they issued last week. They also called for the agency “to abide by congressional intent in refraining from impeding states in the implementation of medical cannabis programs.”

Cohen said that if the TVA follows through on its warning, the agency “would also be sadly out of step with the American people, even after polls and elections are showing again and again how voters react when given the choice to weigh in on access to cannabis.”

“From ballot measures to state legislatures, states are continuing to create state legal markets, while the federal government has failed to modernize its policies,” he said. “This is a time to provide clarity to TVA and is a golden opportunity to right-size federal cannabis policy.”