Tennessee lawmakers have announced the creation of a committee to study how best to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
Legislative leaders in Tennessee have announced they are setting up a special committee tasked with examining whether medical marijuana should be legalized. The panel, appointed by House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and Senate Speaker Randy McNally of Oak Ridge, will provide recommendations about how best to go about establishing a comprehensive medical marijuana program to the General Assembly during the upcoming 2018 legislative session.
In a letter announcing the formation of the committee, Harwell and McNally authorized and directed its members to “study, evaluate, analyze and undertake a comprehensive review regarding whether the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes is in the best interest of the state.”
Senator Steve Dickerson and Representative Jeremy Faison have been selected as co-chairmen of the new Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis. The 10-person committee includes eight Republicans and two Democrats, including Senators Richard Briggs, Rusty Crowe, Joey Hensley, and Jeff Yarbro, and Representatives Sheila Butt, Bob Ramsey, Sam Whitson, and Raumesh Akbari.
The committee will hold meetings throughout the three grand divisions of the state. It will host discussions that focus on different aspects of legalizing medical cannabis, including taxation and law enforcement. Another key task assigned to the legislative committee is educating lawmakers and the general public on the benefits and potential uses for medical cannabis.
“I think one of the goals is to make sure that the people and the advocates and the patients are aware of what we’re doing and make sure that they give feedback to their elected officials,” said Dickerson.
Dickerson and Faison, both Republicans, introduced the Medical Cannabis Act of 2017 last December, but the medical marijuana bill failed to get much traction before stalling in the Senate just months ago. The bill proposed giving patients with around 12 qualified conditions legal access to medical cannabis. The two lawmakers hope that the new committee will improve the chances of legislation passing in the future by educating other members of the General Assembly on the benefits of cannabis.
“People over 65 were just so inculcated with the ‘Reefer Madness’ kind of thought. They often find it shocking to find out the gateway theory is a complete lie,” said David Hairston, president of Safe Access Tennessee.
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Republican candidate for governor, has said she is open to policy that would legalize medical cannabis. She just recently launched a task force aimed at exploring solutions to the state’s opioid crisis, and there’s evidence that making cannabis available to patients reduces the use and abuse of opioids.
A Tennesseans for Conservative Action poll of 600 Republican-only voters conducted in January found that 52 percent support giving patients “the freedom to manage their pain using medical cannabis.”
Despite marijuana being federally prohibited, its use for medical purposes is legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
Learn about what research has so far discovered about medical marijuana by visiting our education page.