Tennessee lawmaker proposes bill to legalize recreational marijuana

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One state lawmaker said it's time to legalize recreational marijuana in Tennessee.

Recreational, let alone medical marijuana, are not yet legal in Tennessee.

"I think it's bad," said Christine Davis.

"I don't think recreational marijuana is nearly as dangerous as alcohol, which is already legal," said Kevin Papazian.

Sen. Sarah Kyle (D-District 30) of Memphis said now is the time for change. She's sponsoring a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.

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"My whole point of bringing a bill to have marijuana available just like any alcohol is available is to have the discussion," said Kyle.

Kyle said the change is necessary for criminal justice reform.

"We are hurting too many of our citizens by charging them with possession of marijuana and they're not able to get meaningful employment," she said. "We are hurting ourselves by losing that talent."

Kyle said the details of the bill still need to be worked out, like limits on purchase and possession.

"We are talking about small amounts that you would use recreationally, just like you do alcohol," she said.

But past efforts to decriminalize smaller amounts of possession have had limited success.

In 2016, Nashville passed an ordinance doing just this, but it was later overturned by the state legislature.

But Kyle said attitudes are changing.

"We need to discuss this, let people understand that it's not necessarily a gateway drug," she said. "We don't punish people before drinking alcohol - maybe if they have a DUI we do. We need to frame marijuana along those same lines. But I think we're going to find out that marijuana is not as harmful as drinking."

Kyle's office said she'll find out who will be her bill House co-sponsor on Wednesday.

Thirty-three states have legalized medical marijuana. Ten states have legalized recreational marijuana.

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