After narrowly failing to pass a broader bill to decriminalize medical cannabis, supporters of the legislation struck a deal with opponents of the Tennessee legislature for a watered-down version.
Bill passed through six specially named houses committees and a Senate committee on Tuesday, one of the last days of the legislative session, after members of both houses who were for and against an earlier measure came to an agreement.
It narrowly passed the Senate on a 20-12 vote, with some members who voted against arguing the bill did not go far enough. Others have remained strictly opposed to any form of legalization of marijuana. The bill is expected to be considered in the House on Wednesday.
Legislature creates commission – nine members of which will be appointed by Speakers of the House and Senate and Governor Bill Lee – to study the legalization of medical marijuana before the federal government reclassifies marijuana on the schedule drugs from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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“We have reduced that as much as we can,” said the sponsor of the bill, Senator Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, referring to a small part of a larger piece of legislation from Senator Becky Massey, R- Knoxville and Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro.
“Not everyone is happy with the compromise,” Haile said at the Senate finance committee. But he said he strongly believes the state needs to move forward and create a study commission to put in place a plan for when federal regulations change on marijuana, which most people do. who follow the problem expect this year to happen.
The bill also allows patients with nine debilitating illnesses to possess cannabis oil that contains 0.9% or less of THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana. This amount is a small dose of THC, slightly above the current legal amount of 0.3% for hemp oil.
Patients must have a doctor’s letter – valid for only six months at a time – stating that they have any of the conditions and that other conventional treatment methods have already been tried.
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Haile said he had conversations with Terry, who also co-sponsored the current, less expensive bill. Terry informed him that he would not be interested in moving forward with the commission bill unless Tennessee also offered some relief to sick patients now. Terry is a doctor, who has explained his own research and conversations with patients, has finally changed his mind on the issue of legalizing medical marijuana.
The bill describes the specific diseases of medical cannabis oil
The diseases listed in the bill include Alzheimer’s disease; ALS; cancer diagnosed as end stage; inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; epilepsy or convulsions; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; HIV or AIDS; and sickle cell disease.
People with epilepsy are already allowed to own the oil in Tennessee under a law previously passed by the legislature.
Patients in these categories should always get the oil out of state, as the sale of any marijuana is still illegal in Tennessee. The new law would simply prevent them from being prosecuted for possession of oil.
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House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who previously supported Terry’s broader decriminalization bill, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who was against the other version, support the compromise legislation.
Gov. Bill Lee, who sent members of his administration to testify against Terry and Massey’s decriminalization bill, which would have allowed other types of cannabis products, waived the new version and “removed his flag. philosophical, ”Terry told the committees Tuesday. .
This means that Lee would have to sign the law.
MPs express frustration with the bill for various reasons
Several members of both chambers said the bill did not go far enough.
Senator Janice Bowling, whose bill to create a comprehensive medical marijuana legalization program failed earlier this year, said she was “in total opposition” to the bill. Haile and was disappointed that Tennessee was not implementing a program like 36 other states. Alabama, she noted, was scheduled to hold a House vote on Tuesday on a Republican-backed legalization plan.
Bowling, R-Tullahoma, voted against Haile’s bill.
Representative John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, told the committee it was a mistake that Tennessee still did not allow farmers to grow the product.
“It is simply unfair for young Israelis to be able to compete in the global market, and we are going to tell the Tennessians that they cannot,” Windle said. “It’s wrong and it’s anti-capitalist.”
Rep. John Ray Clemmons and Senator Heidi Campbell, both Democrats from Nashville, commented on how they feared the bill would make it harder to expand medical marijuana legalization to the future.
Terry and Massey said they agreed with many of the concerns raised by lawmakers who did not believe the bill was doing enough, but admitted progress was better than nothing.
Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Todd, of R-Madison County, argued that states that implement medical marijuana would quickly legalize recreational marijuana. More than two dozen states allow medical marijuana but not the recreational use of the drug.
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