A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Tennessee cleared a major hurdle on Wednesday, passing out of a state Senate committee. But that step forward may be accompanied by a step backwards, as the panel tacked on an amendment to the legislation that would almost certainly lead to a significant delay of its implementation .
In what was described as a “last-minute amendment” by local television station WTVF, the bill would only take effect if marijuana were reclassified on the federal level, which still bans cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The amendment, according to The Tennessean, was added by Republican state Sen. Bo Watson. The bill will now move to the Senate Government Operations Committee for debate.
A separate medical cannabis measure was introduced in the state House of Representatives last week. That bill, known as the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act, would open the door for patients to with at least one qualifying medical condition to obtain a prescription for medical marijuana. The qualifying conditions include cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy
HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, muscular sclerosis, opioid addiction, renal failure, severe nausea or chronic pain, among several others.
That legislation would also establish a so-called Medical Cannabis Commission, which would be empowered to regulate the the cultivation, manufacture, and sale of medical marijuana products. It would also create a state medical marijuana fund to subsidize the program.
“The general assembly intends to establish a functional framework within which to authorize access to medical cannabis on a regulated basis for patients with qualifying medical conditions and which licenses and regulates the processes for cultivation, production, distribution, transport, selling, and acquiring cannabis for medical use and research,” the bill reads. “The broad purpose of the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act is to increase low-cost public health options, alleviate suffering, develop agricultural business, incentivize research of THC benefits, and expeditiously license and track medical cannabis from cultivation to point of sale within the boundaries of this state.”
The bill also noted that more than two-thirds of the country already has “access to medical cannabis through other state programs,” and that “that peer-reviewed medical studies have established a statistical correlation between reduced opioid-use overdoses in states with medical cannabis programs.”
Unlike the bill offered up in the state Senate, the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act makes no mention of the federal government.