Tennessee may become the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana. State politicians are counting on the turning tide of national public opinion towards marijuana to finally make the change in conservative Tennessee.
Legalized medical marijuana actually has historic precedent in Tennessee, the Inquisitr reports. The plant was available by prescription in the 1980s, though the law was subsequently repealed. All other attempts to legalize medicinal pot again have failed—but at least one Tennessee politicans thinks 2014 is the year.
Of the medical marijuana bill she sponsored, HB1385, Tennessee Representative Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) said, “It’s just simply a matter of being rational and compassionate. It would apply to only the most severely debilitated people… children suffering a hundred (epileptic) seizures a day, people on chemotherapy, people with multiple sclerosis… people with a plethora of diseases.”
Jones has introduced the bill countless times, but says that now that that attitudes are widely changing about marijuana legalization, now could be the time for Tennessee to change its laws.
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"I believe that everybody is more interested this year than they may have in the past because there are other states looking at it,” Jones told WTVF.
Though Tennessee is a conservative state, Jones hopes to win over supporters by touting the bill’s stringent requirements and the economic gains of legalized medical marijuana sale, which the state would tax 20%.
Opposing medical marijuana is easy before you’ve had a reason for it. Former anti-pot crusader Joan Peay came around when she fell seriously ill with fungal meningitis. She said that marijuana “saved [her] life.”
Peay was too sick to keep down food and medicine and was sapped of energy during treatment. She took a synthetic form of marijuana, Dronabinol, that kept her nausea at bay but caused no “high.”
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"Previously I was on the fence about medical marijuana," she said. "But this really changed my mind. It saved my life."
A just-released CNN poll revealed that nowadays 55% of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized, period. That’s a huge jump from from 16% in 1987, 26% in 1996, 34% in 2002, and 43% just two years ago.
While older Americans are more likely to opposing legalizing pot, the main conclusion is that most just don’t see it as an urgent issue, opening the door for liberalized marijuana laws.
"Attitudes toward the effects of marijuana and whether it is morally wrong to smoke pot have changed dramatically over time," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That also means that marijuana use is just not all that important to Americans any longer."
Jones and other Tennessee supporters hope to see medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot. According to Jones’ bill, cannabis would be legal for patients with debilitating conditions like cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis, and their caregivers, while physicians would decide each patient's possession limit.