Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

Marijuana legalization in Tennessee pushed by lawmaker

by: Melanie Vásquez Russell

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A lawmaker in Middle Tennessee is making another push to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) introduced a bill last month that would legalize the growth, sale and possession of marijuana in the Volunteer State.

The Democrat says he wants the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act” (HB1968) to be heard in the Agriculture Committee – since he thinks farmers would support it. Freeman had previously co-sponsored a different marijuana bill for regulation last year.

The “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act” is not the only marijuana bill in the works at the state capitol, as there are a handful of other proposed bills being considered in the current legislative session. In Tennessee, recreational and medical marijuana use is illegal; but the growth and use of hemp is approved. Last month, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture announced it had gained approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its Tennessee State Hemp Plan, which was approved in December 2021.

The difference between hemp and marijuana, although both derived from the same species of cannabis plant, lies in the way their chemical formulas are arranged, according to WebMD. Marijuana contains much more of the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) than hemp, while hemp contains a lot of CBD (cannabidiol).

The recreational marijuana industry, legal in several states across the U.S., has reportedly grown to an estimated $25 billion industry.

Another marijuana-related bill in the Tennessee General Assembly was recently passed on first consideration in the Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee. It proposes that county election commissions ask voters three questions related to the legalization of marijuana on the November 2022 ballot, and their answers be compiled as a public policy opinion poll with results shared with the general assembly.

Marijuana legalization has a complicated past dating back to the mid-90s when California first legalized the medical use of marijuana. Currently, within the U.S. there are 18 states that allow adult use for recreational marijuana and 36 states that allow medical marijuana. It is not approved under federal law, which also means banks are not yet federally protected to provide services to marijuana growers or sellers in states where it is legalized, but marijuana banking reform is also in the works in Washington, D.C.

Tennessee’s Rep. Freeman’s bill, the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act” (HB1968) was last assigned to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. We’ll keep following this legislation as we learn more.

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