Tennessee braces for potential change in cannabis scheduling

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As much of the rest of the country pushes forward, Tennessee continues to lag behind when it comes to cannabis.

“One of the barriers we’ve had is the federal government’s scheduling of it,” Rep. Jesse Chism (D-Memphis) said. “What I’ve been hearing around the Capitol is, ‘Hey, it’s still on the Schedule I list, so we’re scared to touch it right now.’”

But late last week, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a memo to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recommending a change in the cannabis schedule.

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The plant is currently a Schedule I drug, which means it’s classified in the same vein as heroin and LSD.

“It’s a little bit of an overstep, I think. If you look at the history of marijuana, I don’t want somebody out driving heavy equipment or flying an airplane or what have you,” Congressman Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) said. “But it’s nowhere near in the game of heroin. You don’t find people in a coma in their car from smoking weed.”

Bringing the schedule down doesn’t legalize cannabis, but it does allow for much further research, interstate commerce, and tax breaks. Though, depending on who you ask, full legalization could be inevitable.

“It’s going to get there, we know it,” Burchett said.

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The Knoxville Congressman said he was in favor of legalization, but that he’d actually prefer it to happen without taxation. He pointed to the low capacity of prisons as a potential reason.

“We’re filling up our jails with these folks, and honestly, poor folks wouldn’t get the same representation as someone I grew up with,” Burchett said. “I think we’ve got some bigger problems in this world.”

Here in Tennessee, Democrats have pushed to open the state up to at least a medical program, as support in polls is continuously high.

“Any time that you take a poll and you find out that your thinking is different from the people’s thought, it will give a hit to your ego sometimes,” Chism said.

It’s a concept even some Republicans are on board for. But the movement continues to die year after year for various reasons.

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“Anything good you need from marijuana, anything good you think can come from marijuana, you can get from hemp,” Rep. Chris Todd (R-Madison County) said. “So, I am 100% against any kind of legalization of marijuana.”

Todd is referring to Delta-8 and Delta-10, which are legal in the Volunteer State.

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