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Bill Would Allow Tennessee Vote On Marijuana Legalization

A Tennessee lawmaker wants to put non-binding recreational and medical marijuana questions on the ballot next year.


A Tennessee state lawmaker wants to put recreational and medical marijuana questions on the ballot next year. The questions, however, would be non-binding, and similar to an opinion poll, reports News 4 Nashville.

GOP State Rep. Bruce Griffey introduced the measure on Wednesday. 

If passed, the bill would require county election commissions to include three non-binding questions related to marijuana legalization on the 2022 ballot.

Should the state of Tennessee:

  1. Legalize medical marijuana?
  2. Decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana? 
  3. Legalize and regulate commercial sales of recreational-use marijuana?

Tennesseee Ballot Questions Not Legally Binding

The three questions ballot questions would not result in any binding legal action.

Griffey, however, says his hope is that the results will put pressure on the Tennessee Legislature to act, reports Marijuana Moment.

“Look, if the citizens vote in favor of it, it’s going to be hard for the legislature to not look at it,” Griffey told The Tennessee Star. “There’s people that are on both sides of this issue in Tennessee. And 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],” he said. “This is something that the citizens ought to decide, and not just their elected representatives.”

Tennessee’s Weak ‘Medical Marijuana Law’

Tennessee has the bare bones of a medical marijuana law. But it is one of the most restrictive medical cannabis programs in the country, allowing only limited CBD use for certain conditions.

One could, in fact, easily conclude legislators passed this weak excuse of a law merely as window dressing … to make themselves not look quite so bad.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee did sign legislation in May that modestly expands the program. The changes add more qualifying conditions for CBD oil containing up to 0.9 percent THC. But it’s not the comprehensive reform advocates have pushed. The bill will also “create a commission” to study broader medical marijuana legalization. That, of course, amounts to little more the same old time-honored delaying, “drop back and punt” tactic so beloved by cowardly politicians.

The current program’s list of qualifying conditions will be expanded beyond intractable epilepsy. Added conditions will be Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, cancer, inflammatory bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and sickle cell disease. People would have to keep proof of their condition and a recommendation from a physician in order to possess the oil.

But Wait A Minute!

But there’s a huge catch. In order to obtain the medicine, Tennesseans will have to break the law. They’ll be forced to go out of state and bring it back illegally, or obtain it illegally in-state. That’s because there is currently no means to lawfully purchase Cannabis-derived medicines in the state. In effect, the bill simply provides bare-minimum legal protections for certain patients under strictly defined circumstances. That’s barely better than a decrim law.

The governor opposed a more robust medical marijuana legalization bill that died in committee this session after first being approved by a different panel. Separately, a Senate committee also approved a medical marijuana legalization bill last year. But that one did not advance further before the end of the session.

Polling has already indicated that Tennessee voters favor more meaningful marijuana reform. Former House Speaker Glen Casada, a Republican, released the results of a constituent survey in 2019 that showed 73 percent of those in his district back medical cannabis.

Tennessee Lawmaker: ‘I Think It’s Cowardly’

Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat, called the bill that would put marijuana legalization on the state’s ballot in 2022 a “stall,” reports 10 News.

“We don’t need a poll on the ballot. We’ve had plenty of polls across Tennessee,” Johnson said. “I think it’s cowardly.”

Johnson said most Tennesseans support legalizing marijuana. She said her Republican colleagues need to “step up” and pass actual legislation, instead of adding a toothless, non-binding ballot measure.

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