A Tennessee state legislator introduced a bill this week that would decriminalize the possession and transfer of small amounts of marijuana. The measure, House Bill 413 (HB 413), was filed on Tuesday by state Rep. London Lamar, a Democrat from Memphis.

Under the bill, it would no longer be illegal for a person to possess up to one ounce (about 28 grams) of marijuana. The measure would also allow individuals to “casually transfer” up to one ounce of marijuana to another person. 

For a casual transfer to comply with the proposed law, it must be a spontaneous transfer of marijuana without a transaction taking place. Transfers of small amounts of marijuana that involve “the payment of money or a gift card, debit card, credit card, or any other card, coupon, or token that is capable of being exchanged for money, merchandise, or goods” in exchange for the marijuana would still be against the law.

The bill would only decriminalize the transfer of small amounts of marijuana “in the form of a plant.” The measure specifically excludes other forms of cannabis “including but not limited to, a resin, compound, derivative, concentrate, or oil.”

If HB 413 is able to successfully navigate through the Tennessee legislature and is passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives, the bill would then have to be signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee to become law. If the measure is successfully signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1, 2021, “the public welfare requiring it,” according to the text of the bill.

Currently, Tennessee law does not allow  the possession, use, or sale of marijuana for any reason, medical or recreational. Legislative attempts to legalize the medical use of marijuana in each of the last two years were unsuccessful.

Last year, Republican Rep. Ron Travis and Rep. Jason Hodges, a Democrat, proposed HB 637, an unsuccessful measure that would have legalized medical marijuana for patients with one or more of 20 specified serious medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation. A separate measure in the state Senate would have legalized medical marijuana only if the federal government did, as well.

A new medical marijuana bill is also reportedly being circulated among lawmakers for the current legislative session. Passage of the measure does not seem likely, however, according to media reports.

First-term Democratic Rep. Sam McKenzie of Knoxville said that he would propose a bill to legalize medical marijuana this year, noting his mother’s “painful” case of terminal cancer. 

“From what I hear marijuana helps with those and other medicinal purposes. Why not? We’re giving drugs that are much more harmful than marijuana,” McKenzie said.

Republican Sen. Richard Briggs, also from Knoxville, said that he does not expect a medical marijuana bill to succeed during the current session of the legislature.

“I have been opposed to medical marijuana as long as there are federal laws that prohibit it,” Briggs said.

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