- Tennessee Democrats in the state legislature want to legalize the growing, selling and purchasing of marijuana in Tennessee.
- This bill is a renewed effort of past cannabis legislation sponsored by Nashville’s Democrats.
- The bill will face tough opposition from many Republicans.
- Democratic lawmakers are renewing efforts to legalize marijuana in Tennessee as top Republicans reiterated their opposition to full legalization until the federal government reclassifies the drug.
State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Nashville, and Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, are re-upping their bill called the Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana and provide a process for it to be grown and sold.
“We’re already seeing that many states have legalized cannabis,” Campbell said. “We’re in a situation where we’re are missing out on that profit because people are going to others.”
The bill would allow adults to purchase up to 60 grams of marijuana. It’s nearly identical to a bill Freeman and Campbell previously sponsored.
Last year’s legislation estimated that legalizing cannabis with a 15% additional tax would generate over $380 million in tax revenue for state and local governments.
“This is something my constituents ask me about all the time,” Freeman said. “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.
“I wanted to run a full legalization bill so we could begin a conversation about what that would look like.”
Tennessee is one of 11 states that hasn’t legalized the product, decriminalized it or provided a widely accessible medical marijuana system.
Other cannabidiol (CBD) products, like Delta 8 and Delta 9, are allowed in Tennessee but operate in more of a gray area.
Last year, lawmakers failed to pass a bill to regulate these gray area products, allowing them to be sold with few restrictions.
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 impediments to the legalization of marijuana or Delta 8 for recreational or medical uses.
“Lt. Governor McNally continues to be opposed to legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana,” Adam Kleinheider, McNally’s spokesperson, said in a statement. “As long as marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic, Lt. Governor McNally believes the state should not consider legalization.”
Lawmakers have until the end of the month to file legislation, where expectations are more bills will be filed related to marijuana and Delta-8 legalization.
The Biden administration’s marijuana reforms
On the federal level, President Joe Biden has taken several steps to reform cannabis laws.
Biden directed the U.S. attorney general and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to examine marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Under that classification, marijuana is considered more dangerous than fentanyl and on the same level as heroin.
The president also pardoned all people with federal convictions for simple marijuana possession in October. The move could help around 6,500 people. But the vast majority of marijuana convictions occur at the state level.
After Biden’s announcements, a spokesperson for Gov. Bill Lee said the administration was “not considering” issuing pardons for those convicted of marijuana possession.