Legislation to allow adult-use cannabis sales in Tennessee introduced by lawmaker

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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On January 24, Tennessee Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) introduced a chunk of legislation Jan. 24 that would legalize the use of recreational cannabis across the state.

Senate Bill 1849, if approved and effectuated, would permit retail sales among individuals aged 21 and above; the maximum purchase limit per customer would be set at half an ounce. According to Akbari’s cannabis legalization measure, revenue earned from the 12 percent sales tax would benefit market infrastructure and educational programs; 30 percent designated to infrastructure and 20 percent to the state’s general fund.

“Tennessee’s tough on crime possession laws have trapped too many of our citizens in cycles of poverty and they haven’t actually stopped anyone from obtaining [cannabis],” Akbari announced in a statement. “The enforcement of these laws in particular have cost our state billions, contributed to a black market that funds criminal organizations, and accelerated the growth of incarceration in Tennessee’s jails and prisons. Tennesseans deserve better.”

Rules for legal commercial cannabis sales in Tennessee are to be drafted by state regulators, should SB 1849 be enacted. 

Bill to legalize recreational cannabis in Tennessee would benefit farmers

SB 1849 was not accompanied by any other pieces of legislation and it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. One of the bills’ primary goals is to put Tennessee in a prime position to compete with other cannabis-friendly states; such as Arkansas, Vermont and Oregon. However, at the current time – according to a spokesman in Akbari’s office – revenue estimates have not been revealed.

During a public statement, Akbari affirmed argued that the bill would prevent tax dollars from being wasted on “failed drug policies.” Instead, she says that SB 1849 will benefit Tennessee both economically and educationally.  In addition to benefiting public-school systems and infrastructure, Tennessee’s cannabis bill would also provide farmers who have been negatively impacted by Trump’s tariffs with an opportunity to get involved in the budding industry.

Separate bill was recently reintroduced to legalize medical cannabis in Tennessee

A bill to legalize medical cannabis in Tennessee was re-introduced in January by Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma). Bowling’s bill is similar to a medical cannabis bill that was submitted in 2019 and fell flat in the legislature. Should the measure be approved, regulatory framework would be developed to permit qualifying patients with access to ongoing medical cannabis prescriptions in the State of Tennessee.

Moreover, Tennessee’s medical cannabis bill would establish regulatory oversight for the licensing process pertaining to cannabis cultivation, distribution, production, sale and transport. The bill would also stimulate scientific research into the plant’s therapeutic properties.

“There are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans that could benefit from medical cannabis. This is desperately needed in Tennessee, it is desperately needed by the patient, and doctors need an alternative from opioids,” expressed Bowling.

You can find out more about Tennessee’s cannabis bills by clicking here.