Tennesseans may have the option to weigh in on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana: medical, recreational, or both. State Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) introduced bill HB 1634 on Wednesday to include a voter opinion poll on the subject within the November 2022 ballot.
The poll would ask voters if Tennessee should legalize medical marijuana, decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and legalize and regulate commercial sales of recreational marijuana.
In an interview with The Tennessee Star, Griffey explained that this is a non-binding piece of legislation. This bill would merely allow voters to have a say on the matter, he said.
“Look, if the citizens vote in favor of it, it’s going to be hard for the legislature to not look at it,” said Griffey. “There’s people that are on both sides of this issue in Tennessee – and honestly I feel like we’re up there as caretakers of the people. We’re not supposed to be dictators, we’re supposed to be responsive to what the people want us to do.”
Griffey explained further that some of his constituents have communicated that they need marijuana legalization for medical needs. This poll would allow everyone to consider the matter.
“I’d like for there to be a real, robust public debate [on this matter],” said Griffey. “This is something that the citizens ought to decide, and not just their elected representatives.”
To illustrate the importance of the people’s power on legislative matters, Griffey referenced voters’ 2006 decision to adopt the Tennessee Marriage Protection Amendment, a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges ruled that provisions like those were unconstitutional.
“We passed a constitutional amendment and you get five black robes in D.C. that said, ‘Nah, we’re going to tell them how to live their lives,’ and I find that kind of offensive,” remarked Griffey.
If passed by the legislature, the opinion poll would appear on the November 2022 election ballot.
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