The Memphis chapter of the National Organization for Marijuana Laws (NORML) was dissolved recently and re-formed last month with a new executive director, Sonny Linn. The new group officially launches Thursday with a rooftop party at Alfred's on Beale from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
While some of the personnel has changed, one core thing remains the same for the group — the full legalization of cannabis for adults in Tennessee. State lawmakers got close to a medical cannabis bill last year. While Linn said we may get closer this year, full legalization here may take a change in the state constitution. — Toby Sells
Memphis Flyer: What are you hoping to get done?
Sonny Linn: Ultimately, our No. 1 goal is to get cannabis legalized in Tennessee, whether that's medical or recreational. The end goal is always recreational. We believe in responsible use of cannabis, period. For consenting adults over 21, they should have no problem being able to go purchase cannabis.
No. 2 is just to get the general public in Tennessee active in lobbying and activism. When we do have rallies and marches, maybe 20 people show up. That doesn't say to our politicians, "Hey, we really want this."
MF: What does NORML say to lawmakers when you meet with them?
SL: Some of our board members met with Rep. Jeremy Faison [R-Cosby] and some of the other [lawmakers] who are pro-cannabis and they, basically, just tell their story. "I've been to other states, and I've seen this happen [with legal cannabis]. Look at the revenue they're generating. Look at what we're missing out on while we have an opioid crisis going on."
MF: What do you think the chances are of any kind of legalization here in the near future?
SL: If our politicians won't listen to the general public, we need to figure out a way to reorganize our constitution to allow ballot initiatives. They don't have to wait on politicians. I think that will be our fastest and most effective way to legalization.
MF: What are the chances of getting legal cannabis through conventional methods, like a vote in the Tennessee General Assembly?
SL: I think it's slightly higher than this year's bill. Rep. Dr. Bryan Terry [R-Murfreesboro] said the bills can't mention anything about recreational [cannabis legalization], not even hint toward it.
So if a bill does pass, it will be a very limited bill. Because [lawmakers] are really going to be looking at treating cancer or HIV, things like that. If that's the first step, then that's great. I would love for those people to have access to cannabis.
MF: What is cannabis culture like in Memphis right now?
SL: It is really becoming more mainstream in Memphis, and that really happened this year. The first few hemp and CBD shops opened their doors here last year in West Tennessee.
Cannabis in Memphis has always been very discreet, very, you know, hide it, hide it, hide it. Now I'm seeing more people come into hemp stores and say, "We really wish that the stuff would just get legalized."