After signing the bill, Governor Bill Haslam said that “Big tobacco is fighting for their life on Capitol Hill, and they are going to try to win,” according to CBS News. If passed, the bill would legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and would allow for the creation of industrial hemp.
The state of Tennessee has introduced a bill that will legalize the use of cannabis to treat a variety of illnesses and conditions. Under the bill, patients will be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, as well as smoke or vaporize the plant to treat a wide range of health conditions, including for cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD. The new law will also allow people to grow up to six plants in their homes for medical purposes, and gives them the option of purchasing cannabis from a licensed dispensary.
The state of Tennessee has just thrown the cannabis world into turmoil with the introduction of the Legalization 2022 Act.
The legislature introduced the bill in 2022. Assemblyman Bruce Griffey, a Republican from District 75, is the author of the bill, known as House Bill 1634.
The bill requires provincial electoral commissions to include three questions each related to cannabis legalization. The questions are non-binding and will appear on the ballot in November 2022.
The Secretary of State should then compile the results of the cannabis opinion survey and make them available to members of the General Assembly.
Tennessee and medical cannabis
This is not the first major decision the state has made about cannabis this summer. Tennessee’s medical cannabis bill recently passed the first Senate committee, but unfortunately failed in the second. There was one small victory, however, as the legislature approved the study committee and expanded the local liquor law.
Tennessee still doesn’t have legal medical cannabis, and it’s one of 14 states that still haven’t implemented a medicinal system. Senate Bill 854 was introduced by Senator Janice Bowling and would have legalized medical cannabis for certain patients and created the Medical Cannabis Commission, which would regulate the production and sale of cannabis. Although the Senate Public Affairs Committee had approved the bill in March, the Senate Judiciary Committee vetoed it later that month.
Although the bill did not pass, Senate Bill 118, which establishes a study committee to look more closely at medical cannabis, is expected to report to the legislature on legal cannabis by the end of the year. This bill also expands the scope of CBD in the state, allowing more conditions to benefit from stronger CBD oil to treat pain and illness.
Tennessee is also among the minority of states where possession of cannabis is still punishable by prison. Only 18% of states still do, and in Tennessee the sad reality is that half an ounce of cannabis or less can lead to nearly a year in prison.
Tennessee supports legal cannabis
Currently, 81 percent of voters in the state support allowing patients and doctors to make decisions about medical cannabis. So it looks like progress will be made in the medical field, and it is likely that at least a significant portion of voters will support legal cannabis when it is voted on in 2022.
Tennessee voters also seem to support cannabis in general, but there is no process for filing a citizens’ initiative in the state. Since only elected officials can change the state’s laws, the 2022 People’s Initiative will not lead to immediate legalization, but it is a big step forward for this conservative state.
While cannabis does not currently have a legal program in Tennessee for a medical or recreational product, there is an exception that allows cannabis oil that is high in CBD and low in THC when patients are suffering from seizures. Both possession and cultivation are prohibited by law, and possession of any amount is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. Growing 10 or fewer plants is a felony and can result in a six-year prison sentence, or more if the person has grown more plants.
In 2016, the law was finally changed slightly so that a third conviction for cannabis use no longer carries a felony charge and up to six years in prison. The section has now been reduced to an offence, so that people who use cannabis do not have a criminal offence on their record.
Status of Cannabis Laws in Tennessee
In addition, the state is blocking efforts to further decriminalize criminal justice. Memphis and Nashville have enacted ordinances that allow police officers to impose civil fines on individuals for minor drug possession offenses. But then-Governor Bill Haslam signed a law that repealed the state’s authority to regulate substances through the Special Substances Act.
For the sake of Tennessee lawyers, let’s hope that changes soon.
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