May 30, 2024 - News

Most Tennessee voters support legal marijuana, according to poll

Illustration of a marijuana leaf on a scale

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Most Tennesseans favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a new poll of registered voters.

Why it matters: The finding, which was included in last week's Vanderbilt poll, is emblematic of a broader cultural shift as other states have embraced legalization and the Biden administration moves to ease federal marijuana restrictions.

By the numbers: Sixty percent of Tennessee voters support legalizing recreational marijuana, according to the poll.

  • John Geer, co-director of the Vanderbilt poll, tells Axios there are "strong party differences," with Democrats much more likely to support legalization.

Zoom in: Some Tennessee lawmakers are more willing to consider medical marijuana here. But it still faces resistance from leading Republicans.

  • Although Tennesseans have limited access to some CBD oil and hemp products, broader attempts to legalize medical marijuana in recent years have fizzled in the face of Republican opposition.
  • Leaders remain firmly against recreational marijuana.

The big picture: Marijuana use is increasingly prevalent in the United States. A study published last week found daily marijuana use has outpaced daily alcohol consumption in the U.S. for the first time.

The latest: The Biden administration has recently taken steps to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug. The proposal would move marijuana from Schedule I, which includes heroin and LSD, to a less dangerous Schedule III designation.

  • That could clear the way for more research and could create legal protections for medical marijuana users.

What they're saying: "I think this is an excellent move on the federal government's part. It needs to happen," Tennessee House Republican Caucus chair Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) told the Tennessean.

  • Faison proposed a bill in 2018 that would have allowed medical cannabis prescriptions to treat some conditions in Tennessee. He said reclassification opened the door to a safer way to treat pain.
  • "There are many Tennesseans who have been safely using the cannabis plant for various and sundry reasons. This allows research now to prove the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that cannabis is a viable option for people who are sick."

Yes, but: Gov. Bill Lee told reporters earlier this month that the federal proposal "doesn't change the situation in our state."

  • Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said serious conversations about legalizing marijuana for medical use would only begin if the reclassification becomes official, per the newspaper.

How it works: The latest Vanderbilt poll was conducted April 26-May 9 and included 1,003 registered Tennessee voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.4 percentage points.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Nashville.

More Nashville stories