After once again failing to pass a bill legalizing medical cannabis in Tennessee, the question arises as to the next steps in this ongoing conversation. Senator Kerry Roberts (R—Springfield) believes the issue may gain increasing support in the coming years, citing his evolution on cannabis legalization.
According to Senator Kerry Roberts, at the outset of his political career, he shared the typical stance of many individuals, refusing to endorse marijuana. The perception of the herb was that it was a flimsy pretext for recreational use, cleverly disguised under the guise of medical necessity. He remained doubtful of its actual benefits.
However, with the advent of new and improved cannabis products and the emergence of a more liberal approach in other states, he has realized that these products are indeed effective. Numerous people have attested to its medicinal properties, especially in treating chronic pain. It’s time to acknowledge its potential.
Cannabis Benefits Outweigh Its Risks
In an interview with News 2, Roberts shared that his constituents frequently express their satisfaction with cannabis as a remedy for their chronic pain. It’s disheartening to see them resorting to crossing state borders for relief. If someone has found a solution that works for them, we must make it accessible here in Tennessee. The state government should legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis, allowing them to acquire it without traveling long distances to neighboring states.
Despite his party’s dissent, Roberts remained steadfast in his support for legalizing medical cannabis. The latest attempt to pass the measure was met with disappointment as it failed to garner enough votes during a Senate committee hearing.
Roberts, the sole Republican on the committee to endorse the proposal, was joined by Democratic lawmakers London Lamar and Sara Kyle and Republican Janice Bowling from Tullahoma. However, the bill was ultimately defeated for the current legislative session due to the opposition of Republican Senators John Lundberg, Todd Gardenhire, Dawn White, John Stevens, Paul Rose, and Brent Taylor.
Roberts acknowledged that he could not speak for his colleagues and their reasons for opposing the statewide legalization of medical cannabis. However, he suspects their reluctance may stem from the federal government’s restrictions on the drug. Currently, the Drug Enforcement Agency categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which implies that it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other drugs classified as Schedule 1 include LSC, heroin, ecstasy, methaqualone, peyote, and heroin.
Considering that marijuana is classified at a federal level, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of pushback, Roberts stated. It’s important to remember that we’re proposing measures that challenge national regulations. If the federal government were to change its stance, you’d see a significant shift in opinion. Roberts emphasized that the key to removing opposition to medical cannabis legalization lies in revising the federal government’s policies.
Potential Abuse of Medical Cannabis Legalization
Although supportive of the measure, Roberts acknowledged the potential for abuse of future regulations surrounding medical cannabis in Tennessee. There’s always the possibility of some people using it for recreational purposes and others for medical reasons, he acknowledged. But the bill is specifically for medical use, and he has no problem endorsing it.
Roberts reiterated that he does not support the complete legalization of cannabis for recreational use in the state. Instead, he emphasized the benefits veterans can experience with medical cannabis, which was a driving force behind his endorsement of the measure. He offered hope to veterans and individuals with chronic pain disappointed by the committee’s vote this year.
Roberts expressed his support for veterans and their advocacy for medical cannabis. Many veterans throughout the state are strong advocates for medical cannabis, and he wants to encourage them to keep fighting. “If you’re experiencing chronic pain and hoping for a change in Tennessee’s laws regarding medical cannabis, don’t give up. Keep coming back and speaking with legislators.” Roberts emphasized the importance of persistence in effecting change and encouraged those affected by chronic pain to continue pushing for progress.
Roberts stressed the importance of building personal connections with legislators and sharing personal experiences related to medical cannabis use. He acknowledged that not all legislators might change their stance but emphasized that personal connections can influence their decision-making process.
Keep sharing your story and let them know what you’re going through to find relief from your pain, Roberts advised. Putting a face to this issue and making it personal can help legislators better understand the impact of their decisions. Establishing that one-on-one connection and sharing your experience with them is important.
Roberts expressed his commitment to continue supporting the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act in the future. He feels confident supporting the bill this year, and if it returns next year, he will vote for it again. Bowling, who introduced the bill, also confirmed her intention to reintroduce it next year. As the 113th General Assembly convenes, lawmakers will consider hundreds of bills, including major issues up for debate. Some legislators have already shared their thoughts on these matters.
The issue of medical cannabis legalization in Tennessee remains a controversial and complex topic. While there are passionate supporters like Senator Roberts, who believe that medical cannabis can provide much-needed relief to chronic pain sufferers, there are also many opponents who cite concerns about potential abuse and federal restrictions. Despite the setback of the failed bill in the Senate committee hearing, advocates for medical cannabis are not giving up hope.
Bowling stated that she plans to bring the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act back up next year. In the meantime, individuals need to continue to share their personal experiences and stories with their legislators, hoping to create a deeper understanding and connection to this critical issue. With ongoing efforts and advocacy, perhaps Tennessee will eventually join the growing number of states that have legalized medical cannabis for those in need.
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