State Representative London Lamar, a Democrat from Memphis, introduced a bill seeking to decriminalize cannabis possession, as well as the casual exchange of cannabis, Tuesday, January 26, 2021. According to High Times, the measure is filed under House Bill 413 (H.B. 413).
Under this proposition, House Bill 413 would finally legalize cannabis possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or approximately 28 grams. Moreover, this bill would also allow individuals to transfer small amounts of cannabis to other people, provided that no transaction or payments are provided in its stead, states Fox 17.
Apart from payments, coupons, gift cards, debit or credit cards, or tokens, are also not allowed to be given in exchange for the casual cannabis transfer. In its report, Fox 17 maintains that going against this would otherwise be considered a transaction or as a means of purchasing cannabis, and would thereby be still against the law.
High Times states that the decriminalization and transfer of the drug in the state of Tennessee would only take into account those that are kept and transferred “in the form of a plant.” Those that fall outside of this category, including the likes of “resin compound[s], derivative, concentrate, or oil,” are not included.
Should the bill be passed, it is slated to take effect come July 1, 2021. However, this house bill still needs to pass the legislature committees and go through the Senate and House of Representatives prior to being made into law.
In the event the bill passes all the committees and both of the required chambers, High Times states that Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee would have to sign the measure.
Representative London Lamar said that the introduction of the bill will provide a more standardized approach to dealing with marijuana, states News Channel 5 Nashville. Based on the report released by the news site, there are already two cities within the state that forego prosecution of cannabis possession in small amounts.
In a statement, Representative Lamar said, “What we want to do is make sure there’s a unified standard across Tennessewhere no matter what county you’re in, there’s the same standard around criminalization and having the possession of marijuana.”
Prior to the introduction of the bill by Democratric Representative Lamar on Tuesday, District Attorney Glenn Funk from Nashville Tennesse already remarked in the summer of 2020 that their office will no longer be penalizing and prosecuting minor cannabis possession.
According to Cannabis Business Times, Nashville county’s approach towards this include decriminalizing marijuana possession of up to an ounce.
Cannabis Still Illegal in the State of Tennessee
As of writing, marijuana is still largely illegal in the state of Tennessee. The state currently does not allow the use of the drug, nor its possession or sale, may it be for medical or recreational reasons.
Those who possess a half-ounce or less of marijuana will be penalized for misdemeanor and jail time of one year. This will also garner fines of up to $250 for the first offense and up to $500 for the succeeding offenses.
Meanwhile, the sale of cannabis will be charged under felony, with jail time ranging from one to 60 years and a fine from $5,000 to $200,000. Home cultivation is also not allowed in the state.
Given the current state of Tennessee, High Times reports that legislative attempts have been made within the last to years, primarily to help legalize medical marijuana and provide patients access to a more comprehensive treatment program. However, these attempts have remained uneventful.
Among the many attempts by legislators include the move made by Republican Representative Ron Travis and Democrat Representative Jason Hodges in 2020. Both of the legislators have filed a proposition under House Bill 637 which seeks to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.
In particular, House Bill 637 would cater to patients that have one or more 20 serious health conditions. Under the guidance and recommendation from a licensed physician, patients that fall under any one of these categories would be given access to medical marijuana, reveals High Times.
Following these attempts, the news site reports that first-term Knoxville Democratic Representative Sam McKenzie announced his plans to propose the legalization of medical marijuana this 2020. Representative McKenzie cites his mother’s “painful” experience with terminal cancer as part of his motivation for doing so.
In a statement, Representative McKenzie said, “From what I hear marijuana helps with those other medicinal purpose. Why not? We’re giving drugs that are much more harmful than marijuana.”
What the Future Cannabis Landscape Looks Like
With the More Act successfully passing in the United States House of Representatives in December 2020, News Channel 5 Nashville reports that Representative Lamar believes that the Senate is also well on its way to passing the act into legislation.
Under the More Act, marijuana will no longer fall under the Schedule 1 controlled substance category,
Representative Lamar looks on the positive side despite challenges, saying she “think[s] it’s going to encounter some of the same struggles that it did in the United States Congress. It easily passed the house in Congress. I do think there is as much support around decriminalization in republicans of the Tennessee house.”
While many legislators are hoping to make great strides in Tennessee in terms of marijuana legalization and decriminalization, it appears that there are still many detractors, one of which is Republican Senator Richard Briggs from Knoxville.
According to High Times, Senator Briggs has long been against medical marijuana given that there are federal laws that still hinder this possibility. As such, the news site shares that the senator is not hopeful of the medical marijuana bill being passed in the current session of the legislature.
Senator Briggs’ sentiments reportedly pertain to the medical marijuana legalization bill introduced in the Senate, the catch of which requires the federal government to pass this measure before the local state government considers this measure approved.
Despite failing to move pass the legislature, Cannabis Business Times Republican Senator Janice Bowling from Tullahoma is still keen on introducing a new medical cannabis legalization bill, particularly to help patients with cancer, PTSD, and glaucoma, to gain access to MMJ. The senator cites the successful legalization in the neighboring state of Mississippi as a factor to help garner more buzz and support for the measure.