Tennessee is one of the remaining states that prohibits medical marijuana. Though you can find hemp-derived CBD, no Tennesseeans can legally take medical cannabis in oil form, nevermind smoke weed. Luckily, all this could change in this year’s gubernatorial election.
In her campaign for governor, Beth Harwell, current Tennessee House Speaker, has made legalizing medical cannabis in Tennessee a deciding issue. And following months of support for medical cannabis, Harwell just aired the conservative state’s first gubernatorial ad on legalizing it.
Medical Cannabis Legislation Fails Again
There was a bigger push than ever for medical cannabis in Tennessee earlier this year. Doctor and Tennessee House member Steve Dickerson of Nashville proposed the Medical Cannabis Only Act. It would have exclusively permitted cannabis oil use for severe conditions only, including cancer and epilepsy.
But local politicians altered the bill so much that Dickerson revoked his support. After it made its way through the House, the act no longer included a framework that allowed patients to buy weed products legally or for the state to tax it. According to High Times, Dickerson explained, “Instead of dragging this out interminably… I think the better decision at this point is to put it in the general sub for the summer.”
Another Push For Legalization This Summer
One of the most notable events in the Medical Cannabis Only Act’s progression was the sudden support it garnered from House Speaker Beth Harwell. When the Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the Tennessee House was tied 3-3 on the bill, Harwell switched sides. Her vote allowed the bill to move on to the next phase before Dickerson decided it was over.
Since then, Harwell has only grown more vocal about legalizing medical cannabis in Tennessee. In a television ad promoting her gubernatorial bid, the Republican candidate shows a 2015 clip of Trump advocating for medical marijuana. “I think medical should happen, right? Don’t we agree?” Trump asks a large crowd.
“As governor, I will pursue this option that is right for Tennessee and has overwhelming citizen support,” she said in a press conference. “I know that if I had a loved one suffering, I would want this option.”
But it isn’t just about what Harwell wants. She invited doctors to the stand to discuss the benefits of medical cannabis. Dr. Jeff Cook, an orthopedic surgeon explained, “It’s a naturally occurring plant that has incredible medicinal purposes. It can help with nausea…” Immunologist Dr. Bruce Cook concurred. “This is something that can also help minimize the use of opioids.”
A Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Advocates For Medical Marijuana
In a watershed moment for Tennessee, Republican and Trump supporter Beth Harwell makes marijuana a divisive issue in her campaign for governor. None of Speaker Beth Harwell’s Republican opponents have commented on legalization yet. But just as Cynthia Nixon pushed Andrew Cuomo towards legalizing adult use, Harwell could force others to take a stance before voting day: August 2nd.
Another reason to support weed legislation besides popular support is how well it aligns with Harwell’s existing political stance. She already has a platform of balancing the state budget and cutting taxes. Taxing weed would be a new source of income for Tennessee, as it has been for many others.
Plus, it looks like the conservative tide is shifting towards weed legalization. Neighboring conservative state Arkansas just issued its first medical weed cultivation licenses.