NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Volunteer State’s best chance at having fully legalized cannabis sales was defeated in a Senate committee at the end of February. Other marijuana-related bills have had even less success than SB1104, brought by Tullahoma Republican Janice Bowling.
One such piece of legislation was a similar bill from Memphis Democrat Jesse Chism, which had its Senate companion bill assigned to the “General Subcommittee” of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which effectively kills it for the legislative session. On the House side, the bill was taken off notice for the Health Subcommittee in the House Health Committee on Feb. 21 before more sponsors were added.
Prior to the start of the session, Chism told News 2 he felt there would be enough bipartisan support to advance the measure.
“I do believe that, with bipartisan support and if we put our ships in the same direction, there’s a good chance we can pass this bill,” he said in January.
Chism also had another bill defeated in committee. House Bill 0173 failed in the Elections & Finance Subcommittee on Feb. 22. The bill would have added three nonbinding public policy poll questions to the general election ballot in 2024 and transmit the results of those poll questions to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office. The Senate companion bill was referred to the State and Local Government committee on Feb. 6 but has had no further action taken.
A bill that was never likely to advance very far was the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act,” which would have fully legalized all cannabis usage in the Volunteer State by 2024. Introduced by Nashville Democratic Senators Heidi Campbell and Bob Freeman, the bill had no realistic chance of advancing very far. As of March 1, the last action taken on the bill on the Senate side was Jan. 21, when the measure passed on second consideration and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House companion bill was assigned to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Feb. 8. Neither bill has had any movement since those days.
Freeman told News 2 in January when he filed his side of the legislation that the state was “leaving money on the table” by not advancing any cannabis-related legislation.
“If you look at Arkansas that has medical only, they’re projecting they made $25 million in tax revenue,” he said.
Campbell agreed, saying, “Let’s not delude ourselves that people aren’t crossing the border and getting cannabis from other states. Of course they are. So, that’s just income we’re missing out on.”
Despite her belief in the bill, Campbell acknowledged in December that she had “no delusions we’re going to pass it this session.”
One more cannabis related bill is House Joint Resolution 0082, which proposes a Constitutional Amendment that would establish a medical cannabis program. That bill has seen no movement after Feb. 1, when it was assigned to the House Health Subcommittee. While most bills have a House and Senate sponsor, this resolution, brought by Nashville Democrat Rep. Jason Powell, does not have a corresponding Senate sponsor.
Bowling told News 2 she intends to keep bringing her medical cannabis bill to the legislature next year.