Legal pot in the land of Rocky Top?
That’s what one Tennessee lawmaker is aiming to achieve in this year’s legislative session. State Sen. Raumesh Akbari filed legislation on Friday to permit the sale of marijuana. The bill calls for the new law to effect on July 1, which would bring Tennessee in line with 11 other states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
Akbari, a Memphis Democrat, said the new law would be both an economic boon and a victory for justice in the state.
“This legislation makes criminal justice more fair, creates thousands of Tennessee jobs, and invests real money in our students and teachers,” Akbari said, as quoted by the Memphis Flyer. “With marijuana now available closer and closer to our state, it’s time for Tennesseans to have a real discussion about repealing outdated penalties for low-level possession and investing in our economic future and public schools through legalization.”
Akbari’s bill would permit adults aged 21 and older to purchase marijuana, which would only be allowed to be sold from a licensed retail store. The law would include a 12 percent sales tax on marijuana products sold in the state, with the revenue generated from such sales going toward the state’s general fund, as well as education and infrastructure in Tennessee.
“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 marijuana,” Akbari said, as quoted by the Memphis Flyer. “The enforcement of these laws in particular [has] 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.”
According the Flyer, Akbari’s bill has not yet been finalized, and is not currently scheduled for debate in the legislature.
Earlier this month, one of Akbari’s Republican colleagues in the state Senate filed legislation to legalize medical marijuana in the state. The bill was re-introduced by state Sen. Janice Bowling after a similar effort fizzled out in the legislature last year.
“There are tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans that could benefit from medical cannabis,” Bowling said. ““This is desperately needed in Tennessee, it is desperately needed by the patients, and doctors need an alternative from opioids.”