Tennessee Republican Lawmakers Push Medical Marijuana | Marijuana

Tennessee Republican Lawmakers Push Medical Marijuana


Tennessee will be the 29th state in the U.S. to enact a comprehensive medical marijuana program if a pair of Republican state lawmakers get their way.

Rep. Jeremy Faison and Sen. Steve Dickerson announced on Wednesday that they intend to file medical cannabis bills in the new legislative session that begins early next month.

If passed, the legislation would allow patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, intractable pain or a number of other conditions to legally use and possess cannabis after getting a doctor’s recommendation to do so.

The state would license fifty organizations to grow and distribute marijuana to legal patients through storefront dispensaries. Patient certification would cost $35 or less.

The bill details were first reported by The Tennesseean.

A fact sheet distributed by Dickers and Faison was silent on the issue of home cultivation, but did note that patients would be able to access medical cannabis in many forms, including “edibles, vape, oils, patches, creams, smokeables [and]pill capsules.”

The sponsors seem fairly optimistic about convincing enough of their colleagues to support the legislation in order to get it enacted.

“I really think this is a very Republican, conservative bill,” Dickers, a medical doctor, said at a press conference to unveil the bill details. “What it does is it gets the government out of our lives… We have sick individuals in Tennessee who simply want to be put in charge of their own healthcare… That’s going to really resonate in our [Republican] caucus.”

Faison agreed. “Republicans by and large say, ‘Man we just need to tell the federal government to get out of our life and shove it,'” he said.

Medical marijuana enjoys broad voter support in the state, as it does nationally. A Vanderbilt University poll released last week found that 75 percent of registered Tennessee voters support legalizing cannabis for either medical or personal use (33 percent supported full legalization, with another 42 percent saying marijuana should only be legalized for medical purposes).

Tennessee has become somewhat of an unexpected hotbed for marijuana reform in recent months. Local officials in Memphis and Nashville, the two largest cities in the state, enacted local ordinances to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this year.

Separate from the medical marijuana push announced Wednesday, state Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D) recently revealed that he intends to file legislation to “support the ordinances of the cities while giving citizens the ability to avoid incarceration.”

And they’re probably going to need it: State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion last month saying the local ordinances “cannot stand” because they are “contradictory to state law.”

Under current state law, possessing small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)

1 Comment

  1. Lawrence Goodwin on

    Awesome report, Tom Angell, as always. To me, your writing and Allie Beckett’s photos (and articles) stand as the finest canna-journalism in the land. Please, don’t either of you flee to Canada or Mexico, or anywhere else.
    Re: the sentence, “Tennessee has become somewhat of an unexpected hotbed for marijuana reform in recent months.” Here’s my take on why that’s happening:
    For many moons now I’ve been following the Twitter feed (@Legalizeitlala) of a tough young lady in Memphis, who’s been lobbying very hard for these legislative changes at the state level in Tennessee. She strongly believes in the healing properties of cannabis flowers. Lauren Houston is her name, a thoughtful mother of two truly happy souls; an older daughter and an adorable young son. Ms. Houston’s been communicating directly with Rep. Jeremy Faison, as anyone can read on her Twitter posts.
    The whole time she’s been lobbying TN officials (because she believes public access to cannabis is that important!), Ms. Houston also has been struggling really hard to manage a horrible stomach condition called gastroparesis. Unfortunately, it really flared up soon after her Thanksgiving dinner this year.
    I’m telling y’all, even as she grapples daily with a serious physical ailment, this amazing lady in Memphis is getting it done by the sheer force of righteousness. If I could command a legion of southern angels to heal her wretched illness, it would gone in an instant to restore her freedom.

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