M is for Marijuana. Marijuana, also known as cannabis, hemp, weed, grass, pot and countless other names is contentious topic in many areas but it also has a long history in the South, the United States, and Tennessee specifically. As the New World was settled and the colonies became prosperous, hemp became an important part of the colonial economy. As the colonies progressed into the United States of America, the first drafts of the constitution were printed on hemp paper. George Washington encouraged hemp production and Thomas Jefferson developed new breeds that were even more profitable.
By the early 1800’s the migration of farmers to Tennessee was in full swing. Donald Winters, in his book Tennessee Farming, quotes an economic report stating
“Hemp grows luxuriantly upon our River Bottom Lands, but hitherto been neglected; although it is believed to be more profitable than any other crop that can be raised.”
This quote exemplifies how the citizens of Tennessee have long seen the economic benefits, including many young people especially from Nashville who venture off during marijuana harvest season in hopes of finding good paying marijuana employment, of hemp. It was during the Mexican American War that Tennessee first petitioned the federal government to grow hemp in Tennessee. The first project was a Navy rope yard in Memphis built in 1852. It was intended to use hemp grown in Tennessee and Kentucky to serve the US Navy. Unfortunately, it was abandoned before it became profitable and further attempts in Tennessee at industrializing hemp were similarly unsuccessful.
More recently, Tennessee has decriminalized the use of CBD for epileptic disorders. CBD is a molecule contained in the marijuana plant that does not get the user “high.” In fact, many who use CBD claim that the effects are the opposite of a high. It has been clinically proven to treat epileptic fits that other pharmaceuticals do not treat. Other states allow it for the treatment of nerve pain, migraines, cancerous pain as well as a myriad of other disorders that BigPharma drugs seem to ignore or not treat effectively.
In 2015, there was an initiative to ban the use of Nashville Metro tax dollars towards the prosecution of marijuana related offenses. While not outright decriminalizing marijuana, this bill would have prohibited the use of public funding to prosecute those who are arrested within Metro Nashville limits. Unfortunately, this bill did not receive enough petition signatures to get on the voter ballot. However, it did make clear that there is a community in Nashville that wants the draconian marijuana laws of Tennessee amended.
Although marijuana legislation in Tennessee has not been particularly successful in the past, there is hope. The fact that CBD has been approved as a decriminalized treatment for epilepsy destroys the precedent that marijuana has no medicinal value. Although the initiative to ban marijuana arrests in Nashville failed to reach the ballot, the fact it even existed shows that there a community in Nashville that wishes to modernize both local and state marijuana laws throughout Tennessee. Organizations such as NORML continue to fight for marijuana legalization, while complimentary organizations like Leafedin.org are helping build a closer and more effective Marijuana Industry by focusing on networking all participants within the Cannabis community to meet their marijuana employment and product needs.
The decriminalization of CBD oils in Tennessee gives both hope and precedent that change is coming to The Great State of Tennessee.