NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Marijuana legalization is effectively dead this year at the State Capitol. That means Tennessee could be left behind as the states surrounding it are passing some form of cannabis legalization.
Tennessee lawmakers have been reluctant to decriminalize and legalize marijuana.
“The issue of marijuana has been contentious and divisive up here for years and years,” said Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris).
The last-ditch effort by Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) to enact cannabis legislation has reached its end in the House for this year, as he pulled the bill (HB 1968) from notice.
“There is a very real possibility that, by the time we come back next year, we will be the only state that touches Tennessee that has not done some sort of legalization,” Freeman said.
With the slow-moving process toward considering full legalization, Tennessee could be left out of the revenue marijuana could provide.
“Having debates with departments and other members, it was a nonstarter the amount of money that we were getting was not even relevant,” Freeman said.
According to the fiscal review of the bill, Tennessee could net between $65 to $130 million per year in revenue.
“It highlights the fact that we are continuing to turn our back to the potential revenue for taxing this legally — people are already using it or else they wouldn’t be getting picked up and we’re criminalizing this putting people in jail for what is legal in other states,” Freeman said.
With around 80% of Tennesseans supporting medical or full legalization, the tide seems to be turning on this issue.
“They are now feeling the effects of age, arthritis, dealing with cancer, and they want an alternative, they want an alternative to the opioids and the pharmacy groups that are paying for these medicines,” Freeman added.
The bill would have instructed the Departments of Agriculture and Health to set up the operation.
Both departments opposed the bill as well as Gov. Bill Lee’s office and Department of Safety.