Memphis city Councilman Berlin Boyd had hoped to cut down on the amount of people in jail for simple possession of marijuana with an ordinance he introduced last fall that would decriminalize having less than a half-ounce of marijuana. And the city councils of both Memphis and Nashville did vote last year to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in their jurisdictions, giving police in those cities the discretion to hand out lighter civil citations.
But soon after, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery said the Memphis and Nashville ordinances violated state statute after the respective city council members’ cast their votes.
The Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill in March that nullified the marijuana decriminalization laws approved in Nashville and Memphis.
The legislation repealed any local law that is inconsistent with penalties in state statutes pertaining to drug control and narcotics. The bill would also prevent local governments from creating their own sanctions. The House voted 65-28 in favor of the bill.
A recent Tennesseans for Conservative Action poll from earlier this year found 52 percent of conservative-leaning voters in Tennessee supported marijuana for medicinal use, while only 31 percent opposed it.
Other states have had a smoother road to acceptance, and on August 1, New Jersey's Democratic Sen. Cory Booker announced he was introducing legislation to legalize marijuana across the US. Arkansas residents voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes back in November. Since then, the state legislature has been hammering out a plan to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana. On June 30, the Arkansas Department of Health began taking applications for qualified patients and caregivers of qualified patients to get their registry identification card through their online system. But as of now, there is still no usable legal medicinal marijuana available for purchase in Arkansas, and residents have been reluctant to apply for licenses to sell and grow it.
“If they get all the paperwork they need, apply and are approved, they will be issued a card about 30 days prior to usable marijuana being available in the state for purchase and use,” Marisha DiCarlo, director of the office of health communications at the Arkansas Department of Health. “We are estimating, based on what our partners have told us, that that will be late this year [or] early next year before we’re at that point.”
To submit an application, applicants must have the application form filled out, a completed written certification from an Arkansas licensed physician, a photocopy of the applicant’s Arkansas-issued driver’s license or state identification card and a $50 nonrefundable application fee. DiCarlo noted the Department of Health would be willing to work with people who may have trouble completing parts of their application.
“We will work with people that have tried to fill out their application, maybe didn’t do it completely, so even though the fee is nonrefundable, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to work with people who run into challenges with their application,” she said.
Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) of the state's House of Representatives believes the federal government has done “a great disservice to a lot of people” by not legalizing marijuana. “The plant is nowhere close to having the negative side effects on humanity that many legal prescriptions have,” Faison said. “The personal side effects of medical cannabis use can't even be compared to the horrific side personal side effects that pills have.”
Faison suggests alcohol’s effects on people makes it ironic for the government to in turn restrict access to marijuana. “No one has ever died while medicating with cannabis,” he said. “God made a plant for mankind, and the government has sought to destroy it.”