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GOP Lawmaker Questions MMJ Legalization, Calls It ‘Stepping Stone’ To Recreational Use

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By Jelena Martinovic

Tennessee, one of several states where only CBD oil is legal, has seen its fair share of legislative action on cannabis by GOP legislators, yet medical and recreational marijuana has not come close to legalization or decriminalization.

Still, cannabis continues to be a hot topic among politicians in this southern state. Rep. Sabi ‘Doc’ Kumar (R-Springfield) was the latest to share his stance on the issue.

“I oppose recreational marijuana because of its effect on society in regards to homelessness, increased crime, increased availability, especially for our adolescents and teenagers,” Kumar, who has a four-decade career as a surgeon, told Nashville News.

However, he is not against medical cannabis use, even though he believes it can become a gateway drug.

“A lot of states, that’s been a stepping stone to recreational marijuana, and I’m certainly opposed to recreational marijuana,” he said. “I think our General Assembly is pretty much opposed to it because it adds another drug to the streets.”

Interestingly, Kumar objected to the data reported by ACLU suggesting that Black and brown people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people.

“If you didn’t commit the crime, you would not be in jail. So, really, it may be culturally that certain people are more prone to commit that crime,” he said. “But certainly, if you committed a crime, that’s why you went to jail. You didn’t go to jail because of your color.”

Photo by FatCamera/Getty Images

Fellow Republican Agrees

Meanwhile, Kumar’s fellow Republican, Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), has a fairly similar opinion on the issue, doubting the benefits of marijuana touted by medical cannabis users.

“People claim that it helps a lot of medical problems, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t help some things,” Hensley, also a doctor, told the news outlet. “I don’t think it helps all the things people claim it helps.”

RELATED: GOP Senator Continues Push For Legal Medical Marijuana In Tennessee: Will Second Time Be A Charm?

Still, he thinks that the descheduling of cannabis as a Schedule I on the federal level paved the way for more research on the effect marijuana has on the human body.

“We just need to be able to change the scheduling on it and then be able to do some studies, and then see what we need to do after that,” Hensley said.

medical marijuana
Photo by RODNAE Productions via Pexels

Tennessee Legalization Efforts

Meanwhile, legislation sponsored by the two Republican lawmakers — Rep. Bryan Terry and Sen. Ferrell Haile — that sought to create a medical cannabis program in the state got a hearing in the House Criminal Justice Committee earlier this year.

Republican Senator Janice Bowling, known for her cannabis policy reform efforts, is getting ready for another push.

RELATED: GOP Lawmakers Urge Dems To Consider Environmental Impact Of Cannabis Legislation

Her bill, SB2477/HB2458, would allow those with qualifying medical conditions to use medical cannabis legally. It will also regulate the cultivation, production, distribution, transport, sale, and possession of cannabis for medical use and research.

Meanwhile, Tennessee recently got its first bar and restaurant to serve products containing THC derived from hemp. Located at 1246 3rd Avenue in the Germantown neighborhood, Buds & Brews features a menu of “upscale bar fare” paired with a line of “delicious cannabis-infused sauces.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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