Tennessee MMJ Bill Dies in Legislature

The time has run out for HB 1284/SB 1248, a bill that would have legalized medical marijuana in the state of Tennessee. Proposed by Sen. Steve Dickerson in the Senate and Rep. Ryan Williams in the House, the bill presented the best hope for marijuana reform in Tennessee, despite other bills working their way through the legislature.

In recent weeks the bill had come under fire from marijuana advocates for containing provisions that would place undue burden on patients in Tennessee. Most notably was the provision that required medical marijuana patients to surrender their driver’s licenses while enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program.

Although that provision was taken out at the last minute, the legislature just simply didn’t have time to work any further on the bill.

“This year we were running against the clock. The legislature is in a rush to get home by May 1,” Tennessee lobbyist Rick Williams told The Leaf Chronicle. “They lost a couple of weeks this year to the weather when they couldn’t meet … by the time the Senate was ready to hear the bill, they were in a time crunch where they couldn’t give it a whole day of hearings.”

To complicate the matter, the bill wasn’t even really a bill. Dickerson and Williams had missed the deadline to submit legislation and had to introduce the measure as an amendment to an already existing bill. Not only did this complicate the time sensitive nature of the bill, but it also made things more confusing for those seeking more information on the matter.

To make things even worse, Tennessee law enforcement was already prepared to oppose the measure; and with the legislature already crunched for time, it didn’t make sense to have a drawn out political fight.

For now, HB 1284/SB 1248 will go on to “Summer Study,” where legislators will discuss, amend, and retool the bill; by the time the legislature reconvenes, the measure will be ready for prime time.

“The bill needs some work,” Dickerson told The Tennessean. “It is a complicated bill with a lot of pieces that we need to make sure we have right.”

Dickerson is right when he said the bill needs works; persons with HIV, AIDS, and PTSD are still not included and the bill still makes it a crime to use medical marijuana in front of a child. Although it is always disappointing to see a medical marijuana bill die in the legislature, perhaps this time it was a blessing in disguise.

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