Many people are wondering if marijuana legalization in Tennessee will ever happen. Efforts have been made previously, but Republicans have opposed them stating they want to wait until the federal government reclassifies the drug. The Democrats are making a new push, but it’s likely to get blocked by the GOP.
Read on to find out more about the marijuana legalization in Tennessee debate.
What is the Current Status of Marijuana Legalization in Tennessee?
State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville and Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, are renewing their efforts to push their Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act through which would legalize the use of recreational marijuana and provide a process for it to be grown and sold.
“We’re already seeing that many states have legalized cannabis. We’re in a situation where we’re missing out on that profit because people are going to others,” Campbell sated.
The bill for marijuana legalization in Tennessee would allow adults to purchase up to 60 grams of marijuana. It’s nearly identical to the bill Freeman and Campbell had been trying to pass through last year.
“This is something my constituents ask me about all the time. These aren’t just millennials but baby boomers who are getting older and don’t want to take heavy narcotics to treat their aches and pains,” Freeman stated.
“I wanted to run a full legalization bill so we could begin a conversation about what that would look like.”
Top Senate Republicans Oppose Marijuana Legalization in Tennessee
Tennessee is one of 11 states that have not legalized or decriminalized cannabis or provided an accessible medical marijuana program.
CBD products, including Delta 8 and Delta 9, which contain THC but have similar effects to CBD, are allowed in the state, but there are gray areas pertaining the laws surrounding them.
Last year, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R- Oak Ridge, said the Delta 8 industry was ‘on notice”. McNally and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations are two of the biggest opponents of marijuana legalization in Tennessee and Delta 8 specifically.
“Lt. Governor McNally continues to be opposed to legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana. As long as marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic, Lt. Governor McNally believes the state should not consider legalization,” McNally spokesperson Adam Kleinheider revealed in a statement.
Lawmakers have until the end of the month to file legislation. It is expected that many more bills will be filed related to marijuana legalization in Tennessee.
Biden Administration Marijuana Reforms
With marijuana legalization in Tennessee contingent on legalization on a federal level, you may wonder, what’s President Biden’s stance on it?
Biden has taken several steps toward marijuana reform. He directed the U.S. attorney general and U.S. Department of Health and Human services to review the drug’s classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance which puts it in the same category as heroin and makes it more dangerous than fentanyl.
He has also pardoned everyone who has been convicted of simple marijuana possession on a federal level in October. That could help about 6500 people, but it does not help the majority who have been convicted at a state level.
After Biden’s announcements, a spokesperson for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said the administration was not considering issuing pardons for those convicted of marijuana possession.
More Than a Dozen Bills Were Filed in Tennessee Legislature Regarding Marijuana Legislation in Tennessee in 2021
At least 17 pieces of legislation regarding marijuana legalization in Tennessee were introduced in 2021. They included the following:
The Reclassification of Marijuana on a Federal Level
Rep. Sabi Kumar, R- Springfield (also a surgeon) urged the U.S. Drug Administration to reclassify marijuana to allow for marijuana legalization in Tennessee.
Creating a Commission to Study Marijuana
This measure from Republican Senator Ferrell Haile (Gallatin) and Rep Bryan Terry R-Murfreesboro, would establish a medical cannabis commission consisting of multiple doctors and pharmacists who would study laws and legislation regarding the medical use of cannabis and report their findings and recommendations.
One aim of the group would be to set up an effective patient focused medical cannabis program in the state.
The nine-member panel would meet at least every two months. However, the legislation would prevent the state from taking any action until cannabis was legalized on a federal level.
Marijuana as Medication
Republican Rep. Ryan Williams of Cookeville and Republican Senator Page Walley of Bolivar would define marijuana as “a product approved as a prescription medication”. It’s unclear what products would fall under that description.
Regulated Medical Marijuana
Outspoken marijuana advocate, Republican Senator Janice Bowling of Tullahoma and Republican Senator Iris Rudder of Winchester filed legislation that would enact a full-fledged program for marijuana legalization in Tennessee.
Allowing Cannabis Oil Use for Some Cancer Patients
Another Republican backed initiative, this legislation would allow cancer patients with life-threatening cancer to use cannabis oil if their doctors attest that conventional methods have been tired and were not effective.
Allowing Paralyzed Veterans to Use Cannabis Oil
This bill was introduced by Rep. John Mark Windle D-Livingstone and Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Raumesh Akbari of Memphis. It would allow veterans with quadriplegia to use cannabis oil legally if their condition was a result of their military service.
Windle, a colonel in the Tennessee National Guard said he believed starting with wounded veterans would lead to more acceptance of marijuana legalization in Tennessee.
Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory is a quadriplegic, and he says he believes he would benefit from the use of cannabis oil.
Despite the many legislations that have been introduced for marijuana legalization in Tennessee, none have been approved. It is doubtful anything will happen until the drug is legalized on a federal level. However, there’s always a possibility that miracles will happen.