A lawmaker introduced this bill to the 2022 ballot. Representative Bruce Griffey, a Republican from District 75, is behind the bill, known as House Bill 1634.
The bill will require county election commissions to each include three questions related to legalizing cannabis. The questions must be-non-binding and will appear on the November 2022 ballot.
Then, the secretary of state will be required to compile the results of a public policy opinion poll conducted about cannabis and reveal the results to members of the general assembly.
Tennessee and Medical Cannabis
This is not the first major move the state has made this summer relating to cannabis. Tennessee’s medical cannabis bill recently passed its first Senate committee, but unfortunately failed in the second one. However, there was one small victory, as the legislature approved a study commission and expanded the local CBD law.
Tennessee still does not have legal, medical cannabis, and is only one of 14 states that still does not have a medical system in place. Senate Bill 854 was sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling and would have legalized medical cannabis for certain patients and developed a Medical Cannabis Commission that would have regulated the production and sale of cannabis. While the Senate Government Operations Committee approved the bill back in March, it was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee later that month.
However, while the bill did not pass, Senate Bill 118, a bill that creates a study commission to look further into medical cannabis, is required to report to the legislature about legal cannabis by the end of the year. This bill also expands CBD in the state, allowing more medical conditions to be eligible for stronger CBD oil for treating pain and illness.
Tennessee is also in the minority of states that still penalize simple possession of cannabis with jail time. Only 18 percent of states still do that, and in Tennessee, it’s unfortunately a reality that half an ounce of cannabis or less can result in almost a year in prison.
Tennessee Backs Legal Cannabis
Currently, 81 percent of voters in the state support allowing patients and doctors to make decisions about medical cannabis, so it seems that there will be progress made on the medical front, and it’s likely that at least a significant portion of voters will back legal cannabis if it is put on the 2022 ballot.
Additionally, Tennessee voters seem to support cannabis across the board, but the state doesn’t have a voter initiative process. Since only elected officials can change state law, the ballot initiative for 2022 won’t directly make legalization happen, but it is a huge step forward for the conservative state.
While cannabis does not have a legal program currently in Tennessee for medical or recreational product, there is an exception allowing for high-CBD, low-THC cannabis oil if patients suffer from seizures. Both possession and cultivation are illegal, and possession of any amount is a misdemeanor punishable with prison time. Cultivation of 10 plants or less is a felony and can lead to six years in prison, more if the person in question was growing more plants.
Finally, in 2016, the law was changed somewhat so that someone facing a third cannabis conviction no longer automatically leads to a felony charge and up to six years in prison. Now, that has been reduced to a misdemeanor so that folks who use cannabis won’t have a felony on their permanent records.
Tennessee Cannabis Laws as they Stand
Additionally, the state is blocking efforts to further decriminalization. Memphis and Nashville have both passed ordinances that allow officers to charge folks with a civil infraction instead for small possession offenses. But then the governor at the time, Bill Haslam, signed a bill that specialties state law preempts local government when it comes to regulation of substances.
For the sake of advocates in Tennessee, we hope change is on the horizon.