Tennessee State Legislator Introduces Cannabis Legalization Bill

The Volunteer State’s first full-scale legalization bill would set a 12% tax rate on pot products and cap sales at half an ounce.

A new bill introduced in the Tennessee state senate would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older and construct a local industry of cultivators, processors, distributors, and dispensaries.

According to the Memphis CBS affiliate WREG, Democratic State Senator Raumesh Akbari filed SB 1849 late last week, which would bring the southern state inline with the 11 states and Washington DC that have already tipped the scales on pot prohibition. Sen. Akbari released a statement alongside the legislation calling for the Volunteer State to stop wasting funds on “failed drug policies.”

“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. “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.”

As it is currently written, Akbari’s bill would create a full legal cannabis marketplace regulated by appointed state officials. At the retail level, cannabis would be taxed at a statewide flat rate of 12%, with each customer purchase capped at one half ounce.

Once the tax money is collected, Akbari’s plan would see half of the excise funding set aside for education funding, with the other 50% split between the state infrastructure fund and general tax coffer. It is not yet clear if the Tennessee legalization law will  eventually include open consumption sites, home delivery, or home grown bud, but as it is currently written, it appears that only fully licensed cultivators and storefront dispensaries would be allowed to grow or distribute legal weed.

As of publishing, Akbari’s bill has not been scheduled for debate or vote in the Senate, and no companion bill has yet been filed in the state House. 

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