Tennessee buys more time on marijuana legalization
Tennessee state Representative Bruce Griffey (R) introduced a bill on July 7 that would require county election commissions to include three questions related to the legalization of marijuana on the 2022 ballot. The bill, H.B. 1634, would then require Secretary of State Tre Hargett to compile the results and send them to the state legislature. The results of the questions would then be used by the legislature to guide future decisions regarding marijuana policy.
The three non-binding questions on the ballot would be as follows: Should the State of Tennessee legalize medical marijuana?; Should the State of Tennessee decriminalize possession of less than once ounce (1 oz.) of marijuana and; Should the State of Tennessee legalize and regulate commercial sales of recreational-use marijuana?
The questions on the ballot would be utilized to weigh public opinion. The result would not legally require the legislature to act. While they may use the results as justification for ending the state’s outdated prohibition on marijuana, the state will not be obligated to follow whatever results from the questionnaire. Furthermore, 2022 is a midterm election year; gauging public opinion would be more effective during a presidential election year when voter turnout is much higher.
Marijuana continues to remain outlawed in the Volunteer State both recreationally and medically. All Indica, Sativa and Hybrid marijuana strains are illegal in the state of Tennessee. There is currently an exception that permits high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil, but that’s reserved for patients with seizures. While not a felony, possession is a misdemeanor that is punishable up to almost 12 months in prison and up to a $2,500 fine.
Many states with conservative majorities in the legislature are moving at an incremental rate in regards to inevitable legalization. Tennessee, however, is by far moving at pace far slower than any other state currently taking up the issue. While recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states, and an additional 18 states have medical marijuana programs, Tennessee legislatures are fighting to have non-legal binding questions on the ballot.