Republican Lawmaker Wants to Test Support For Marijuana Legalization in Tennessee

A new proposal from a Republican state representative would allow state voters to voice their opinion on whether they want marijuana legalization in Tennessee. However, the proposal would not change any laws, only determine public opinion.

Rep. Bruce Griffey has introduced the proposal in the state Legislature. While it only calls for dipping their toes into the topic of marijuana legalization in Tennessee, it’s expected to meet some resistance among lawmakers.

For this part, Griffey told The Tennessee Star that there are people on both sides of the issue who need to be heard. “Honestly, I feel like we’re up there as caretakers of the people. We’re not supposed to be dictators, we’re supposed to be responsive to what the people want us to do. I’d like for there to be a real, robust public debate [on this matter]. This is something that the citizens ought to decide, and not just their elected representatives,” he said.

Griffey might meet resistance from his own party. A vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, Griffey has clashed with other GOP members in his state. In March, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, stripped Griffey of his committee assignments.

Legalization in The South

Alabama recently approved medical marijuana, making it one of many southern states to OK cannabis use for medical purposes. However, Virginia remains the only state in The South to make recreational cannabis legal. Sales are expected to start there in 2024.

The proposal from Griffey would seek voter opinion on the legalization issue. The three questions are:

  • Should the State of Tennessee legalize medical marijuana?
  • Should the State of Tennessee decriminalize possession of less than one ounce (1 oz.) of marijuana?
  • Should the State of Tennessee legalize and regulate commercial sales of recreational use marijuana?

The results of the ballot questions are not binding and would not result in any changes in the law. But Griffey said debate around the ballot questions would allow Tennessee residents the chance to hear both sides.

Why Tennessee Is Important to Cannabis Consumers

Marijuana legalization in states such as Tennessee, Florida, Texas and Georgia is watched closely because they are high-population states in the most populous region of the country. But while other areas have reaped the rewards of marijuana, both for those who use it and for state coffers, the South lags behind on the issue.

There are implications at the federal level, as well. For Congress to approve marijuana legalization, they will need votes from southern congressional members. Tennessee ranks as the 15th most populous state in the country, with almost 7 million residents.

As for the ballot measure, Griffey faces an uphill climb. In addition to his issues within his own party, marijuana legalization in Tennessee has faced a tough battle in recent years. For example, earlier in 2021 a proposal by state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey to study the impact of legal medical marijuana in the state failed to even make it out of the House Criminal Justice Committee.

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