By Clint Confehr
For decades, Libertarians have endorsed legalization of recreational marijuana. They still do. It’s time for Tennessee lawmakers to just do it.
Libertarians don’t endorse the use of marijuana, nor do we. However, the war on drugs is a failure, a waste of money and other states collect sales taxes on recreational cannabis.
Tennessee faces huge problems because sales tax revenue dropped during the coronavirus quarantine. Nashville’s mayor proposes a property tax rate hike of nearly one third more on a rate that’s so high that people live elsewhere and commute.
As with the establishment of a state lottery, our lawmakers must act. It’s unconstitutional for them to abdicate their authority to the will of the people expressed by a direct ballot question. That can be circumvented by a non-binding referendum to advise lawmakers.
Before the lottery was established, Tennesseans pooled their money, sent a driver to Kentucky and bought tickets. Subsequently, illegal numbers rackets declined.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in nearby Illinois since Jan. 1. After Colorado’s legalization, studies found many customers don’t live there, and police know only a small percentage of the smugglers are caught.
Recreational cannabis is legal in 11 states. They include: California, of course; Alaska, which promotes itself as a destination for use of recreational marijuana; Maine; Massachusetts; Michigan; Nevada, where what happens in Vegas should stay there; and Oregon. Ownership (not sale) is permitted in Vermont and Washington, D.C. Capitol city tourists have bought T-shirts from street venders who leave gifts in the bag.
Thirty three states permit medical marijuana, including Arkansas and Missouri. At least one Tennessee lawmaker has asked if an out-of-state medical marijuana patient should be charged with simple possession here.
This year and in 2022, several states’ ballot initiatives advocate laws legalizing medical marijuana and recreational cannabis. Usually, the new revenue is to be allocated to healthcare programs, school districts and charter schools.
Education and healthcare are underfunded here. Now, the financial impact of the coronavirus quarantine has debilitated state and local economies. Some cities and counties aren’t suffering as much as Nashville Music City. Tennessee has a local option sales tax. Colorado has a county that voted against legalization of recreational marijuana. Legalization doesn’t have to be statewide. There are still dry towns in Tennessee.
The Tennessee General Assembly is going back into session, largely to deal with problems arising from the pandemic. Of course there’s more to it than what’s described in 450 words, but getting a referendum on the November ballot is a way to get permission from the people and start developing a new revenue stream for state and local governments.
Less controversial solutions are to be offered here.