NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Marijuana continues to be a hot topic in Tennessee. Now, U.S. Senate Democrats introduced new legislation to end the federal ban on marijuana.
“I think it’s great,” State Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said. “Cannabis legalization is not a matter of if, but when.”
Although state lawmakers have no official say as to whether or not the bill becomes law, Campbell is one of the supporters of the new bill.
“It’s just not the boogeyman it was set up to be when it was made illegal,” Campbell said. “It ends up being attacks on the poor and people of color.”
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would kick the issue of marijuana to the state level, leaving each state to set its own laws.
Some local lawmakers have balked at the idea of recreational marijuana. One of those is State Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville), who said she supports medical cannabis but not recreational.
“Some of the states that first did medical cannabis, it basically was more or less a ruse, a facade for recreational marijuana,” Massey said.
Massey has several family members who she says could have benefitted from medical marijuana prior to their deaths.
“I had a brother-in-law that passed away to ALS; I had a sister-in-law that died from significant cancer and was in a lot of pain,” Massey said. ”The medical cannabis wouldn’t have cured them, but it’d have helped ease their transition.”
But she says recreational use is a step too far, calling marijuana a gateway drug.
“We have major drug problems as it is, and we’ve got so many people overdosing,” Massey said. “It typically is, for recreational purposes, it does tend to be a gateway drug.”
An MTSU poll from 2018 says more than 80% of Tennesseans support at least medical marijuana.
The bill has a long way to go to become law. To even get out of the Senate, New York Senator Chuck Schumer would need every single Democrat plus at least 10 Republicans to sign off on it.