State senator files bill to legalize recreational marijuana; Nashville nonprofit creates petition in support

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Medical marijuana fails every year in Tennessee, but a state lawmaker is trying to go push marijuana even further – by legalizing its recreational use. Nonprofits in Nashville are showing their support.

Senator Raumesh Akbari filed the bill to legalize recreational pot in early January. Nashville-based nonprofit, Free Hearts, created a petition this month asking for signatures in support of the bill.

Free Hearts Executive Director Dawn Harrington said, “We’re behind the curve on this issue.”

Harrington said her group created the petition after a statewide survey.

“We asked regular Tennesseans what is something they would like to see changed, many Tennesseans said they want to legalize marijuana,” Harrington said.

As of Monday night, the petition had almost 4,000 signatures.

Sen. Akbari spoke with News 2 about the bill.

“So in Tennessee, we’re reaching $1.1 billion in incarceration costs. You have folks going to jail for nonviolent, low-level offenses that are legal in 33 other states in some capacity,” Sen. Akbari said.

The bill would allow licensed businesses to sell less than half an ounce to people 21 and up, and sales would come with a 12% tax with revenue going to education, infrastructure and general funds.

Akbari added, “We could use the funding, people are already participating in these activities, so why not regulate it, tax it and use it support infrastructure?”

Akbari acknowledged that medical marijuana has yet to pass in the state, saying that her bill is more about starting a conversation.

“I don’t think this is something that is going to pass this year but it’ll at least get us talking in the right direction,” Akbari said.

The bill isn’t yet scheduled for debate. Senator Akbari has also filed bills to decriminalize carrying up to an ounce of marijuana.

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