» Philip Sparn


It is about time that Tennessee and other states choose to legalize the medical or recreational use of marijuana.

As a result of recent 2012 ballot measures, medical marijuana is now legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Two states now allow the recreational use of marijuana, according to The New York Times. These state ballot measures demonstrate the public’s desire to end the federal prohibition of marijuana.

Christy Walker | Designer

There are numerous reasons why Tennessee, in particular, should legalize marijuana. It is no secret that the south, especially Tennessee, has a large number of small-government conservatives that would prefer the government to stay out of their own and everyone else’s business.

It is also no secret that Tennessee has a strong tradition of agriculture and living off the land. Just these two factors alone should be reason enough to consider legalizing the farming and use of marijuana.

However, the main reason we should consider ending the prohibition of marijuana is the economic boost and relief that legalizing this cash crop can provide our state.

Allowing marijuana to be grown, sold, regulated and taxed, as tobacco and alcohol currently are, would help provide state and local governments much needed tax revenue and a strong economic industry for farmers and distributors.

In October 2012 alone, Tennessee collected around $22.8 million in tax revenue from the licensing distribution of tobacco according to the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Comparative Statement of Collected Revenues.

Tennessee also collected around $10.7 million in tax revenues from the licensing and distribution of alcohol, beer and mixed drinks in October 2012, according to the Tennessee Department of Revenue. In just the last four months alone Tennessee has collected around $139 million in tax revenue from the distribution of tobacco and alcohol.

Too often, we all hear about drug busts worth thousands or millions of dollars, where officials confiscate marijuana, supplies and money worth thousands or millions of dollars. It would be beneficial to our economy and agriculture industry to allow this revenue to be legally earned by farmers, small businesses and distributors in the legal market.

Tennessee could greatly increase tax revenue collected each year by taxing the distribution of marijuana like tobacco and alcohol. By increasing tax revenue, Tennessee could possibly help fill budget shortfalls and possibly prevent increasing tuition rates at state institutions, without having to raise taxes on it’s residents.

Not only can marijuana be a beneficial herb, but a strand of the plant, known as hemp, can serve as a very versatile and cost-efficient fiber that can be used in textiles, paper, rope, paints, clothing, plastics, cosmetics and many other products.

Up until the prohibition of marijuana, hemp was a cash crop and major industry in the United States. Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had large hemp farms, according to NORML, a marijuana advocacy group.

I am pretty sure that the legalization of marijuana will not lead to the downward spiral of our society, increased violence and rampant drug use, like some social conservatives would prefer everyone to believe to prevent legalization.

If doctors can prescribe large amounts of addictive pain pills with similar ingredients to heroin and if states can tax, regulate and control other possibly dangerous “feel-good” drugs, like alcohol, tobacco and even caffeine and sugar, we should be able to do the same with marijuana without any major problems.

Not only could legalizing marijuana in Tennessee provide great economic benefits through increasing tax revenues, but legalizing marijuana would keep innocent non-violent marijuana offenders out of the courts, jails and prisons; saving them grief, financial strain and a criminal record.

Legalizing marijuana in Tennessee and other states needs to be more than just a pipe dream. In a state where independence, farming and living off the land is in our heritage, legalizing marijuana seems like a perfect fit for Tennessee’s residents and our economy. For more information on marijuana advocacy, laws and reform in Tennessee, visit NORML.org/tn.