Can Tennessee follow other states' plans to legalize marijuana?

Legislature continues to consider medical marijuana
Marijuana Legalization
Posted at 4:13 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 17:36:10-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Proposed bill after bill go up in smoke. Yet again, Tennessee lawmakers rejected the idea of medical marijuana in the Volunteer State this week.

It's worth noting that the bill in Tennessee died in committee by a narrow 9-8 vote, so it could be amended to pass. Lawmakers have heard from thousands of constituents who say they could benefit from medical marijuana.

For people like T.J. Ramsey who suffers from epileptic seizures, his mother Holly, who lobbies lawmakers says medical marijuana would change his life.

"Hopefully, even if I don't get 100% control of the seizures, even to just five a day that would be a huge difference in his life," Holly Ramsey said.

So, what's next? Other states with legal pot once faced similar hurdles.

Tennessee is so close and only needs to look at the Lone Star State

"I hope that Tennessee, they'll follow Texas to have patients have safe access to the plant." Jax Finkle with Informed Texas helped pass medical CBD legislation for treatment of seizures back in 2015.

She says it took time to get lawmakers past the stigma of pot. "We really focused on education and engagement," Finkle said.

Advocates convinced lawmakers of the health benefits and economic advantages. However, the question remained, "How do we identify if people are driving impaired or not."

Kristi Kelly helped pass legislation in both Colorado and Michigan

A breathalyzer does not work for cannabis. Lawmakers were convinced field sobriety tests do. But, in Tennessee, lawmakers also reject legislation pointing out marijuana remains an illegal Schedule I drug -- right there with heroin -- at the federal level.

"I'm frustrated the arguments don't really make sense to me as to why," said Holly Ramsey.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall agrees.

He breaks with others in law enforcement saying states can legislate for themselves, separate from outdated federal guidelines.

"I think it should pass. It's going to. For anyone to sit here and pretend it won't happen that's wrong. You are behind the times," Hall said.

Those are the words of the sheriff in the state's largest city where the District Attorney does not even prosecute cases of less than half an ounce of marijuana.

The drumbeat in Tennessee gets louder. Many believe if medical marijuana was put to a vote of the people in Tennessee it would pass.

But, in Tennessee, the issue is to be decided by elected officials.