Article by Ephrat Livni, Quartz
More than half of US states—28—have legalized medical marijuana. Sixty percent of Americans support legalization, according to an October 2016 Gallup poll—including 42% of Republicans. Some of these cannabis supporters live in conservative states, and some are even in their state’s legislature, supporting marijuana reform measures.
In Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah—traditionally Republican locales—marijuana reform bills have been introduced for consideration in upcoming sessions. “And, it is worth noting that Republicans, who control state legislatures in most of those states, are behind the push,” writes Maureen Meehan in High Times on Jan. 16.
This month in Missouri, Jim Neely, a Republican representative and licensed physician, introduced a bill to give terminally ill patients access to medical marijuana. His daughter died of cancer in 2015, and Neely believes the drug would have helped alleviate her pain. An initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri last year didn’t make it on the November ballot. Still, Neely said that the culture seems to be receptive now, noting, “I think the timing is good.” He told Missourinet on Jan. 13 that he’s optimistic the bill will make it to the House floor, thanks to his conservative bona fides and medical professional credentials.
In Tennessee, two Republican legislators, Jeremy Faison and Steve Dickerson, a doctor, introduced a measure to legalize therapeutic weed in December. They believe it will be an economic boon to the state. The bill allows for 50 grow houses to be built, 15 of them designated for economically distressed areas.
The Tennessean reports that the marijuana measure is also part of a push by lawmakers to tackle an opioid epidemic. More opioid prescriptions are handed out than there are people in Tennessee, and marijuana is seen as a viable, non-addictive alternative for pain relief. Republican representative Ryan Williams co-sponsored a similar bill to legalize medical marijuana during the 2015 session, but it died in committee. He told The Tennessean there will be a “big push” for medical marijuana during the 2017 legislative session to address the opioid epidemic.