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CannaBeat: New Bill Would Make it Harder for Cops to Search You

In an effort to distinguish between THC and CBD, the bill aims to prevent searches "based solely on the odor of cannabis."

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So, you're cruising through Midtown, puffing on a perfectly legal doober of CBD flower. Some cop smells it, says it's THC, wants to search your car, and maybe arrest you.

What can you do? Right now? Nothing. But that could change, thanks to the work of two Republican lawmakers in Tennessee. (You read that right.)

A Baptist and former special education teacher, Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), and a cattle-farming, Church of Christ congregant, Rep. Jay D. Reedy (R-Erin), want to make it harder for law enforcement officials to search your car (or anywhere else) "based solely on the odor of cannabis."

CBD and industrial hemp were legalized thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, but much of the details of that legalization were left up to the individual states. Regulations have come here in spurts and fits, but there's been no "here's-what-we're-doing-with-CBD" task force or regulatory agency formed. So CBD and hemp is still in the Wild West a bit.

DIMITRI BONG | UNSPLASH
  • Dimitri Bong | Unsplash

The "odor-of-cannabis" bill shows just how wild. Historically speaking, Republicans have been tough on crime and not too keen on jazz cabbage or its fans. Yet, this bill seems a reversal on both stances.

However, it does fit Republican ideals in two ways. Industrial hemp and CBD are rising industries in Tennessee (read: business and bucks). They're also agricultural products (read: Tennessee farmers are so on Republican brand, and they vote).

But a look under the hood of this possible new law shows it could be a boon to local governments. The folks in Nashville who put price tags on all kinds of legislative ideas say the bill would cut simple possession or casual exchange violations in half.

Researchers with the state government assumed there were about 18,690 convicted on such charges last year. Most of these offenders wind up in local jails. Keeping 10 percent of them out would save local governments more than $897,000 in incarceration fees.

Possessing a half-ounce to 10 pounds of marijuana — a Class E felony — will get you an average of 1.28 years. Cut that by 10 percent, the researchers say, and the state government saves more than $752,000 every year.

However, state and local drug dogs will need to be trained to distinguish between hemp and marijuana, the researchers said. That training could cost up to a total of $300,000 annually.

Two other Republicans, Rep. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) and Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), want to push the THC front a bit.

Their bill would prohibit the "revocation of parole, probation, or bail based on a drug test result that is positive for THC below a certain level." It would also prohibit "public employers from taking adverse employment action and denying certain benefits based on such a test result."

Few details of the legislation were immediately available. It was filed in late January and hasn't yet been debated.

Hemp Fest 2020

Um, is it too early to get excited about Mid-South Hemp Fest? I didn't think so.

Last year's was the largest cannabis event in the state. It returns on Saturday and Sunday, April 18th-19th, at Shelby Farms. Search for the event page on Facebook. We'll see you there!

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