NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It never quite leaves the conversation in Tennessee.
“We’re surrounded by states that have already done that, and of course, we have approximate states that now have legalized medical marijuana,” Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said. “So, we’re almost an island here.”
Now, there’s new legislation coming to try and introduce cannabis access in the state. “It’s a full legalization of cannabis across the state,” Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) said.
Freeman and Campbell plan on filing a bill sometime within the next few days to legalize cannabis recreationally.
One of the reasons behind the decision is that they both believe, eventually, the federal government will legalize cannabis. If that happens, Tennessee would theoretically miss out on tax revenue more than it already is.
“Let’s not delude ourselves that people aren’t crossing the border and getting cannabis from other states. Of course they are,” Campbell said. “So, that’s just income we’re missing out on.”
Freeman said another reason he wants to pass the bill is that the current situation disproportionately affects people of lower income.
“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,” he said. If you live in a poorer neighborhood and you get picked up with cannabis, you’re going to jail.”
As for the actual passage of the bill, Freeman was moderately confident about it. “A solid 7, 7.5,” he said of his confidence on a scale of 1-10.
Campbell was a bit more pessimistic. “Pretty low—I won’t give you a number, but I have no delusions we’re going to pass it this session.”
Most Republicans are against the full, recreational legalization of cannabis, and Tennessee has a Republican supermajority in both chambers of our legislature.
You might ask why bother filing the bill if you don’t think it’s going to pass. Campbell said it’s about keeping the conversation at the forefront.
“We ran it last session, and I think it’s important to run it so that we keep the issue alive, we keep the messaging going,” she said. “Obviously, at some point, that’s going to happen, so we’re just going to keep knocking on that door until somebody opens it.”
In 2020, Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) and Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton) sponsored a medical cannabis bill that was weaving its way through the legislature before COVID-19 shut the process down.