NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee lawmakers kicked off the annual legislative session this week in Nashville.
Ahead of the 113th General Assembly, WKRN News 2’s Chris O’Brien sat down with leaders on both sides of the aisle to talk about all the issues and what they might look like in bill form.
Separate interviews were conducted with Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Democratic House Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).
Not every interviewee was asked about every subject, but there was considerable crossover with most of them.
Realistically, any bill approving recreational cannabis in Tennessee is unlikely to pass this year, as most Republicans are adamantly against it. But medical cannabis is a different story.
Below you’ll find what lawmakers said ahead of the session when asked about their thoughts on possible cannabis reform in the state.
Clemmons: “Legalizing marijuana is a win-win-win. It’d be great for revenue, it’d be great for healthcare access, and it would be great for local economies. Think about all rural economies and family farmers who could benefit from the legalization of marijuana.”
“[A] tremendous opportunity that is being wasted. Guess what? Every other state is doing it. Is Tennessee going to be last again?”
McNally: “I oppose marijuana, and if you notice the states that have it, it sort of becomes like certain physicians you can go to and you can tell them you’re 21 years old and you’ve got back problems, they’ll write you an order for marijuana. They still can’t write a prescription for it.”
“It still remains to be a Schedule I drug which means it’s against federal law to possess it. Now, that might change, but I’d still be opposed to the legalization of marijuana.”
“Also, I feel that we need to do something about the CBD and some of those analogs of marijuana and put some controls on them because they’re just wild in the market right now. They make all sorts of claims and probably 75% are not true.”
“I realize marijuana can certainly lead to stronger drugs. People that want to use marijuana, they use it to relax or to escape reality, and you can get into other drugs that also do that. Pretty soon, you think you’re taking a Vicodin or Lortab, and you’re taking fentanyl, and that’s the end of you.”
Johnson: “I am diametrically opposed, do not support at all the legalization of recreational use of cannabis in the state of Tennessee. On the medical side, I want us to be thoughtful and deliberative of how we do that. I’m convinced in talking to medical professionals that there is benefit for use of these chemicals for certain people who suffer from certain types of ailments. I’m going to continue to listen to the medical experts, but I’m also going to listen to law enforcement and the people who are worried about expanding access and availability to this.”
While there is growing support for medical possibilities in the state, Democrats will need 11 Republicans to cross the aisle in the Senate.