Two state lawmakers in Tennessee announced on Thursday that they plan to introduce a comprehensive medical marijuana legalization bill. Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. Ron Travis plan to introduce the bill in the coming weeks, according to media reports.
Bowling said in a press release that she believes cannabis can be part of the solution to the nationwide epidemic of opioid overdose deaths.
“I have been in the fight against opioids and pill mills. Opioids have become a tragedy for Tennesseans,” Bowling said. “Our constituents can use a natural and effective option for pain relief that is not controlled or pushed by Big Pharma. When I see medical studies showing that states with medical cannabis programs had an average 23 percent drop in opioid prescription use and overdoses, I see a real option we can use.”
If the bill passes, patients with certain qualifying health conditions would be able to obtain a medical marijuana identification card to allow them to legally purchase cannabis. A commission would be created to regulate patient access and license cultivators and retailers. Bowling said the experience of other states was drawn upon to draft this medical cannabis solution for Tennessee.
“I wanted a new bill that is Tennessee-specific and takes the best of what worked in other states and leaves out what did not. This bill delivers what I wanted,” Bowling said. “The legislature has not yet had that kind of bill to consider. The Bowling-Travis bill creates a fully functioning framework to license growing, producing and dispensing operations.”
Cannabis Advocates Support Measure
Glenn Anderson, the executive director of the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association expressed his support for the measure.
“This bill represents a careful look at what the other states have struggled with so we could focus on the successes and avoid repeating any failures,” Anderson said. “We look forward to working with the legislature to pass a bill that provides the relief patients need.”
Travis said lawmakers have a responsibility to provide residents of Tennessee access to alternative medical therapies that work for them.
“As I learn about the different medical cannabis products available in other states, I am concerned that in Tennessee, a person can’t find relief for their children’s or any other family member’s medical condition, such as epileptic seizures or cancer. The number of people we could help could be astounding,” Travis said. “I look forward to working with Senator Bowling, the Senate sponsor, to do our due diligence on this very important bill. It is of the utmost importance for Tennessee to stay at the forefront of serving our citizens, new industry and technology.”
Polling has shown that 80 percent of Tennesseans support the legalization of medical marijuana. Last year, Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Bryan Terry introduced a more restrictive medical marijuana legalization measure they titled the Tennessee Responsible Use of Medicinal Plants Act – or TRUMP Act. Terry said the bill was named after the president because he supports medical marijuana.
“Our state overwhelmingly voted for President Trump, and overwhelmingly still supports President Trump,” Terry said. “This is so people will realize and understand that this is … something he supports. He has said he thinks medical is something that should happen and should happen at the state level.”