Tennessee Lawmaker Want to Legalize Recreational Marijuana
While recreational marijuana legalization efforts have proven successful in states across the country, there are still 29 states without legal cannabis for adults. Some lawmakers want to change that in Tennessee, making Tennessee recreational marijuana a reality in 2023.
They admit it’s a longshot. Two Democrats in the state filed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Tennessee even though both chambers of the state legislature are controlled by a super majority of Republicans who have opposed legalization.
Their argument is that federal legalization is inevitable and that, in the meantime, Tennessee is missing out on revenue.
“Let’s not delude ourselves that people aren’t crossing the border and getting cannabis from other states. Of course they are,” Sen. Heidi Campbell, one of the Democrats who filed the bill, told WKRN. “So, that’s just income we’re missing out on.”
The Changes Tennessee Recreational Marijuana Law
Right now, Tennessee only allows use of CBD products. CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, became legal in 2018 as part of the U.S. Farm Bill. In the meantime, voters in Maryland and Missouri approved recreational marijuana in 2022, bringing the total number of states that allow adult-us sales to 21 (plus the District of Columbia).
Even in the South, where no states have allowed recreational marijuana legalization outside of Virginia, states that share a border with Tennessee – including Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama – have comprehensive medical marijuana programs.
Campbell said that has left Tennessee as “almost an island here.” It also unfairly impacts low-income Tennesseans, according to the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Bob Freeman. He told WKRN that “If you live in a wealthy part of the state and a wealthy community in our city, and you get picked up using some cannabis for personal consumption, the odds of you getting a slap on the wrist and nothing happening is pretty high. If you live in a poorer neighborhood and you get picked up with cannabis, you’re going to jail.”
His argument is one that others have made around the country. It’s an issue that has drawn increased support for cannabis legalization in many states.
Facing Republican Opposition
However, as is the case at the national level, making Tennessee recreational marijuana legal faces an uphill battle. Republicans who control the state legislature have shown little interest in legalizing marijuana.
Even though she said the odds are low that the legislation will pass, Campbell said that the legislation is worth filing to “keep the issue alive.” Campbell said eventually legalization will happen, and until then, “We’re just going to keep knocking on that door until somebody opens it.”
As 2022 draws to a close, leaders in other states have raised the possibility of marijuana legalization in 2023. In Minnesota, new governor Tom Waltz – a supporter of cannabis legalization – has said that legalization could happen in the next 12 months. Voters in Delaware have also voiced support for legalization, and there’s a push from the governor in North Carolina to at least decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, much as President Joe Biden has done at the federal level.