The subject of marijuana is being discussed once again at the Tennessee state capitol. Tennessee lawmakers are scheduled to debate whether or not medical cannabis should be legalized in the state.
If this law is passed, it will lay the groundwork for the legalization of medical cannabis in the state. This involves how it is used and grown, sold, and transported, among other things.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss this legislation. If it becomes law, that does not imply that it will be enforced throughout the state, as any jurisdiction can prohibit it. The local legislative body would decide with a 2/3 majority by April of the following year.
If this were to become a reality, it would only be available to those over 18 who had specific medical issues. They would regulate it before it happened. It would be subject to a 9 percent state sales tax and a 2.1 percent municipal sales tax.
In addition, a 12-member committee would be established to regulate this, and a patient tracking system would be implemented to prevent the sale of counterfeit cards and the selling of illicit goods.
Tennessee Lawmakers to Analyze Many Cannabis Proposals
We had just addressed the chances for cannabis reform in Tennessee a few days before. Even in the earliest days of this legislative session, legislators are already advocating for such reform to be implemented.
According to Rep. Chris Hurt, who introduced House Bill 1690 last week to “legitimize” the hemp sector, the hemp industry is gaining momentum.
HB1690 would establish a licensing requirement for retailers and distributors, levy a tax on wholesale hemp-derived cannabinoids, and restrict the sale of psychoactive hemp-derived products such as Delta-8 to individuals 21 and older, among other things.
According to the Tennessee Growers Coalition, which worked with Hurt on the legislation, the state could collect $160,000 in licensing fees per year and as much as $4–5 million in tax income per year under the proposed legislation.
Reports from the Nashville Post indicate that Representative Bob Freeman is anticipated to introduce more comprehensive marijuana legislation shortly, which would legalize the use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
According to Freeman, the so-called FACT Act would “create the best cannabis program in America, similar to the program we have established for the hemp business in Tennessee,” he said.
Among the other themes emphasized by Freeman are “retroactive criminal justice reform,” tax income for rural and minority business growth, and help for Tennessee farms. Freeman has called for passage of the bill as soon as possible. He went on to say that the proposal “may be a game-changer for Tennessee.”
It is too early to know whether or if either of these suggestions will become legislation. Nonetheless, they are significant indicators that the Legislature will be compelled to address the issue of cannabis reform head-on during this legislative session.
With public polling indicating more than 80 percent support for change, reform activists in Tennessee have reason to be optimistic for the first time in a long time.
According to the Associated Press, a Tennessee legislator desires to authorize marijuana use, cultivation, and sales throughout the state. On January 25, Representative Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) proposed H.B. 1968, which he dubbed the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act.”
As of January 28, it had been referred to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee for consideration, where it is still pending.
The bill would completely rewrite Tennessee’s marijuana regulations, making recreational and medical marijuana available to everyone.
Adults 21 and above in the state would be permitted to use and possess up to 60 grams of marijuana for personal use if the legislation is passed.
Also permitted on private land would be the cultivation of up to 12 marijuana plants, provided that the growing area is not visible to the general public from the ground and is adequately protected with locks or other security systems.
Minors suffering from medical ailments would only be permitted to use medical marijuana under the supervision of their parents after speaking with a physician.
Aside from that, the bill establishes rules for retail marijuana operations, making it permissible for anyone who obtains the necessary permits from the Department of Agriculture to produce, process, and sell plants, seeds, and paraphernalia.
Employers would still be able to refuse to hire applicants based on their marijuana usage under the proposed bill, as long as the work requirements are consistent with the employer’s hiring policy addressing other impurities that would result in a denial.
It would also allow landlords to prohibit marijuana in their properties, similar to how they do with tobacco.
Local governments will not establish more stringent marijuana usage rules if the proposed legislation is fully implemented, which will be the case in the vast majority of cases.
On the other hand, county or municipal governments would vote to ban marijuana sales and cultivation. Still, they would have to do so with a two-thirds majority and renew the ban every year.
If the bill is passed, it would still be illegal to consume marijuana in a motor vehicle, airplane, watercraft, or public location unless the space is restricted to children and identified as a place where marijuana consumption is permitted by law.
In the case of sales to children under 21, the law recommends that the seller be charged with a Class C misdemeanor on the first three violations and a Class A misdemeanor on all subsequent offenses, with the seller losing their license for two years.
For the most part, the bill covers how the various state departments will oversee and police marijuana licensing and cultivation and sales in the Volunteer State.
In addition, Freeman proposed taxing marijuana at 15 percent of the retail price. If the bill passes, farmers, processors, and dispensaries would be eligible for a 25 percent return on sales and use tax.
The agriculture department would receive 50 percent of the state’s tax funds, which would be used to develop public safety campaigns and fund green energy programs in some counties, among other things.
The Department of Safety would get 20% of the proceeds, which would be used to teach law enforcement officers on cannabis-related legislation, provide support to police injured while on duty, and help the families of officers slain while on duty.
Another 20 percent of tax revenue would be deposited in the state’s employee legacy pension stabilization reserve trust; another 5 percent would be distributed to the Department of Education for use in educational programs on the health and legal risks of underage marijuana consumption, and the Department of Revenue would retain the remaining 5 percent to cover any administrative costs associated with the tax revenue.
Finally, the law proposes adjustments to the criteria for urine testing procedures. If the law is passed, the state would be prohibited from revoking bail, parole, or suspended sentences based on a positive marijuana test during a urinalysis performed on the individual.
It would also ban schools from restricting extracurricular activities to minors who use medical marijuana and test positive for the drug in the future.
Government bodies would also be prohibited from initiating disciplinary action against employees based on a positive urine test result. People receiving government aid through public programs would also not have their money taken away by the state under this provision.
The Current State and Possible Prospects of Medical Cannabis in Tennessee
California became the initial state to allow medical cannabis when it did so in 1996. Several states have followed suit, keeping up with quickly changing legislation and attitudes about marijuana.
The legalization of cannabis for adult use has spread across the country in addition to broad medical cannabis legalization. Eighteen states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult use.
Tennessee is in the minority, even in the South, because it is one of only 14 states that has not approved medical cannabis under state legislation.
Five of Tennessee’s surrounding states have legalized cannabis for medical use (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri) or adult-use (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri) (Virginia). Mississippi, meanwhile, appears to be on the approach of legalizing medical marijuana as well.
Although Tennessee’s present cannabis legislation does not appear to reflect the views of its citizens, the state appears to be moving in the right direction.
The majority of Tennesseans (about 81 percent) support some legalization, with 44 percent supporting medical usage and 37 percent supporting adult-use legalization, according to a 2018 poll done by the Middle Tennessee State University.
Because of this widespread acceptance, several Tennessee state officials, who are personally opposed to the legalization of medicinal cannabis, have taken notice of the situation.
Example: In July of last year, Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-D75) introduced legislation that would have required county election commissions to place three non-binding questions on the ballot asking voters whether they wanted Tennessee to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, legalize medical marijuana, or legalize adult-use marijuana.
The statement from Rep. Griffey stated that while he personally “opposes marijuana legalization,” his “personal opinion” should not “dictate” that marijuana remains illegal under state law if legalization is what Tennessee voters choose.
So, what is the current position of Tennessee on medical cannabis? And who knows where it will behead people. These inquiries are related to this article, the first in a series on cannabis law in Tennessee.
Wait, Tennessee Already Has a Medical Cannabis Program?
Some readers may be surprised to learn that Tennessee has a medical cannabis program in place, which is legal under state law.
Individuals with specific qualifying ailments and a physician’s recommendation are permitted to carry cannabidiol (CBD) oil containing up to 0.9 percent THC, according to legislation that went into force in May 2021 and is currently in operation.
Particularly noteworthy is that Tennessee’s 0.9 percent THC requirement is three times higher than the 0.3 percent THC standard for lawful “hemp” under federal law.
As a result, the 0.3-0.9 percent THC oil approved by Tennessee law counts as “marijuana” under the federal Controlled Substances Act, making it illegal to possess.
In practice, Tennessee’s program is so limited that it makes little difference in altering the status quo. The underlying problem with the program is that it does not allow for the production of CBD oil in-state that contains THC levels more than the 0.3 percent federal limit.
Therefore, qualified Tennessee patients must obtain their “medical cannabis” oil from a source beyond the state’s borders. When you combine the in-state manufacturing ban with the tight 0.9 percent THC cap, you get the impression that Tennessee’s current statutory framework is a “medical cannabis program” in name only.
Tennessee Medical Cannabis Commission – An Essential First Step
However, change may be on the horizon. Tennessee’s Medical Cannabis Commission was established by the same statute that only slightly expanded the state’s medical cannabis program.
The Commission’s mission is to “serve as a resource for the study of federal and state laws regarding medical cannabis and the preparation of legislation to establish an effective, patient-focused medical cannabis program.
A medicinal cannabis program in Tennessee has not yet been “authorized to function,” and “licenses for such a program shall not be provided… unless marijuana is removed from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act,” according to the statute.
As directed by state law, the Commission is tasked with “examining federal laws, the effectiveness of other states’ laws and legislation, and the effectiveness of laws and legislation in [Tennessee] about the medical use of cannabis.” It necessitates the Commission’s consideration of matters about a wide range of broad categories, including:
- Which patients should be eligible for medical cannabis treatment?
- How patients should apply medical cannabis treatment
- Physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants play in the recommendation, and prescription of medical cannabis are discussed in detail.
- What are the duties of pharmacists in the recommendations, prescriptions, and dispensing of cannabis?
- Licencing and regulating “the cultivation, making, labeling, transfer, shipping, and separation” of medical cannabis are all on the table.
- Product safety evaluations
- The various state departments, agencies, and boards have to regulate medical cannabis.
- What is the function of law enforcement in the medical cannabis industry?
- Medical cannabis is subject to taxes and fees.
- Creating a “suggested care of treatment” for medical cannabis is a major undertaking.
- Patient reciprocity with other states that have authorized medical cannabis under state law is important.
To fulfill its statutory responsibilities, the Commission must prepare recommendations on “how to establish an effective, patient-focused medical cannabis program most effectively.”
It must also prepare proposed legislation that must “create an independent and financially self-sufficient Commission to administer the program.”
The Commission must deliver a report to the Tennessee Legislature including these recommendations and ideas by January of each year.
The Commission has already supplied the Legislature with the report for 2021, but it has not yet made the report available to the public. The meetings of the Commission are open to the public and are broadcast live on the internet.
Large Picture Questions for the Commission
To fulfill its statutory mandate, the Commission must develop a true medical cannabis program to examine what works and what doesn’t in current medical cannabis jurisdictions. For the cannabis sector to succeed, the Commission must be educated on these issues.
While there are various questions that the Commission must consider to develop an effective program, some of the most important are as follows:
Will Tennessee adopt a “limited-license” or an “open-license” system of marijuana regulation?
State legislatures authorize only a limited number of licenses to cultivate, process, or distribute cannabis under a limited-license regime, awarded through a competitive application procedure.
In an open-license system, states grant licenses to businesses that meet the necessary legal requirements. Alabama, for example, is one of the states with a limited license. Oklahoma is an example of a state that allows for open licenses.
Is there going to be a social equality component to this?
Social equality requirements in cannabis legislation come in various shapes and sizes. Aspects about minority-owned enterprises include the need for the state’s licensing body to provide a particular number of licenses to such businesses for them to be considered successful (Alabama has adopted this model).
More broadly, several states’ cannabis statutes provide for the expungement of previous cannabis convictions and the distribution of cannabis tax income to communities that the War has negatively impacted on Drugs.
The state of Tennessee is considering imposing a residency requirement for cannabis licenses.
Many states only provide cannabis licenses to organizations whose majority ownership can be traced back to inhabitants of the jurisdiction in question. It is far from apparent whether or not these residence requirements are permissible under the United States Constitution.
Will Tennessee enable patient reciprocity?
Some states, like Arkansas, issued a visitor’s card to patients traveling from another state.
Will Tennessee authorize a true medical cannabis plan before marijuana is de-categorized at the national level?
This is anyone’s guess at this point. The de-scheduling of medicinal cannabis by the federal government, as previously stated, is a requirement under Tennessee’s present statute before the state can expand medical cannabis.
However, even in the southern states, the tide of legalization is turning swiftly. If Washington paralysis continues to stymie cannabis legislation at the federal level, tax revenue from adjacent states may incentivize the Tennessee Legislature to move the process along.
The timeline for medical cannabis legalization in Tennessee appears to be lengthy; yet, history has shown that it doesn’t take much for legalization efforts to pick up momentum in the state.
Tennessee’s establishment of the Medical Cannabis Commission is a significant first step in the right direction. The business hopes that by doing so, Tennessee would be able to avoid some of the pitfalls made by its sister states when they were putting their respective programs in place.
We will continue to watch the Commission’s sessions and report on the changing legal picture for medicinal cannabis in Tennessee throughout the year.
Bipartisan Tennessee Lawmakers Desire To Set Marijuana On The Ballot For Voters To Choose
In the wake of years of marijuana legislation being tossed around the General Assembly only to be defeated, two state legislators are launching a ballot initiative to find out exactly what the public feels about the drug in question.
Rep. Bruce Griffey, a fiery Republican from Paris, and Sen. Sara Kyle, a liberal Democrat from Memphis, are introducing legislation that would allow voters to participate in a state-sponsored public opinion poll. The two lawmakers make for an unusual pairing.
State Senators and Representatives introduced Senate Bill 1973 and House Bill 1634, which would obligate county election commissions to include three non-binding questions about marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2022. The results would then be compiled by the secretary of state and forwarded to the Legislature for evaluation.
Although Griffey could not find any Republican senators who would sponsor the bill, which does not auger well for its passing in the GOP-controlled chamber, Kyle decided to carry it in the upper house since she favors passage of each question it raises in the law.
“I don’t see any negative aspects to it, and the pricing is low.” Griffey stated on Wednesday that “we should allow Tennessee people to at the very least reasonably express their opinions so that all of us, as legislators, have a feel of what the voters would like us to do.”
While Tennessee has a local CBD medicinal cannabis law in place, efforts to expand patient access have made it a couple of steps forward in committee in recent years. Still, they have never made it to the Tennessee House of Representatives floor.
Law enforcement officers successfully stopped recent legislation, and major legislative leaders voiced their objections.
Instead of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, this measure would only provide politicians with information to determine whether or not to pursue more legislation on a long-standing issue.
The following are the questions to be posed:
1) Should medical marijuana be made available in the state of Tennessee?
2) Should the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana be
3) Is it appropriate for the state to legalize and regulate the commercial selling of marijuana for recreational purposes?
The passing of any subsequent legislation is not guaranteed due to the referendum’s outcome. According to the state’s Constitution, ballot propositions are not legally binding.
“We’ve been wrangling with this issue for years and years and years and years. A few jurisdictions have taken the step of legalizing it as well. Although there are some legitimate objections, is marijuana any worse than alcohol in some situations?” Griffey shared his thoughts.
For example, Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk has made it a point not to prosecute people with less than a half-ounce of marijuana in their possession, even though police officers can issue fines.
Funk’s decision has enraged some of the state’s most conservative politicians, who have called for his resignation.
Last November, the latter passed legislation that allows the attorney general to appoint substitute district attorneys to handle cases when district attorneys proclaim that they will not prosecute specific offenses under certain circumstances.
Kyle, who has long advocated for the legalization of medical marijuana in Tennessee, believes that assessing “community support” for the questions is a good idea.
“I would vote yes on every one of these,” Kyle stated emphatically. One of her primary points is that people should obtain medical marijuana to deal with chronic ailments such as cancer and HIV.
She draws attention to the high prevalence of sickle cell anemia in her Memphis district, as well as the potential benefits that medical cannabis could give to those who suffer from the condition.
Previous legislation specified approximately 30 different ailments that medical marijuana might treat in some cases.
Also included was establishing a governmental bureaucracy to manage the drug’s development, packaging, and distribution, all of which would have combined to create a vast industry with the potential to generate billions of dollars in state revenue if successful.
Even if medicinal marijuana becomes legally available, Kyle concedes that efforts to legalize it could be delayed by queries from politicians about the types of amounts that could be delivered. Despite this, she intends to press ahead with the ballot measure.
As a result of a DUI or marijuana possession conviction, she feels that thousands of young people are handicapped in pursuing a meaningful job or admittance to a university or college.
“Let’s get rid of that roadblock,” she remarked. “We’re talking about a fraction of an ounce here. That is primarily for personal use.”
Kyle points out that the use of medical marijuana is permitted in several states across the country. Tennessee is one of only a few states that allow cannabidiol, also known as CBD, to be used medically.
Those who travel into Tennessee from Arkansas, where medicinal marijuana is permitted, should not be prosecuted, according to Kyle, if they are detected in possession of the drug.
Based on prior surveys, Kyle feels that Tennesseans are ready to legalize medicinal marijuana and decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Regular polls show that the population supports the legalization of medical marijuana and the decriminalization of marijuana in varying degrees (between 70 and 80 percent).
Kyle’s primary focus, on the other hand, is with the United Nations General Assembly. “I believe you will receive a resounding yes on those questions,” she predicted. “However, I’m not sure if the Legislature is prepared.”
- 1 Tennessee Lawmakers to Analyze Many Cannabis Proposals
- 2 Tennessee’s legislator is assuming to make recreational and medical pot authorized in the state.
- 3 The Current State and Possible Prospects of Medical Cannabis in Tennessee
- 4 Wait, Tennessee Already Has a Medical Cannabis Program?
- 5 Tennessee Medical Cannabis Commission – An Essential First Step
- 6 Takeaways
- 7 Bipartisan Tennessee Lawmakers Desire To Set Marijuana On The Ballot For Voters To Choose