Tennessee Moves on Marijuana Reform

As the fight for marijuana legalization continues onward, conservative states have slowly begun to seriously consider marijuana reform bills. One of the conservative state’s considering reform is Tennessee, where a number of marijuana bills have been submitted to the state legislature.

Filed jointly in both the House and Senate, HB 561 and SB 660 would legalize medical marijuana for those with the following conditions: cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, cachexia or wasting syndrome, chronic pain, severe nausea, severe and persistent muscle spasms, seizures and terminal illnesses.

Medical marijuana patients would be required to enroll in the “Safe Access” program and the bill’s provisions would protect patients from housing or employment discrimination. Enrollment in the program would not negatively affect child custody hearings.

Also filed jointly in both houses of government are two bills aimed at decriminalizing marijuana. HB 873 and SB 1211 would decriminalize marijuana in Tennessee. Those with less than an ounce would not be charged with a crime, and those caught with an ounce or more would be charged with a class-c misdemeanor and a $100 fine.

Although a recent Middle Tennessee State University poll indicated that 75 percent of Tennessee residents support medical marijuana, it is unlikely that either the medical marijuana or decriminalization bills will get any play in the legislature. Currently, Tennessee lawmakers have set their sights much lower and have focused their attention on a much more limited bill.

HB 0197 would reclassify the states definition of marijuana to exclude low-THC cannabis oil extract obtained in another state. Under this bill there would be no legal way to obtain the marijuana. It would essentially force people to smuggle marijuana across state lines, a crime more severe than marijuana possession.

So far, HB 0197 has cleared a the House Criminal Justice Committee and now only needs to go through the full House Health Committee before heading to the floor for a vote. It is incredibly disappointing that such a limited bill is the only kind of marijuana reform bill to get traction in Tennessee.

However, there is some hope in the Senate. Former anesthesiologist and Republican state Sen. Steve Dickerson announced that he plans on introducing a bill that would legalize marijuana oil but reportedly go further than HB 0197.

According to Dickerson, who spoke with ABC News, the bill would be one of the “most conservative marijuana bills in the country.” The bill would only allow for CBD marijuana oil, which can only be vaporized, consumed or used topically.

The list of qualifying conditions would be very small, and would not include chronic pain or PTSD. From the outset, this sounds like a disappointing piece of legislation; however, the bill has not been finalized and things can always change in committee.

Hopefully, at the very least, Dickerson’s bill will provide Tennessee’s patients with a legal avenue to acquire medical marijuana. A draft of the bill is expected to be unveiled in the coming days.

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