Thanks to legislative action, two more states are getting closer to having a medical cannabis program. Close votes by lawmakers in Tennessee and Oklahoma indicate that these two states are slowly moving toward medical marijuana. But both states have more work to do before medicinal cannabis programs are put into place.
First Up: Tennessee
In Tennessee, legislators are considering the Medical Cannabis Only Act. If passed, the bill would allow patients to use cannabis oil medicines. The law forbids plant forms of cannabis, as well as smoking and vaping.
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, introduced the bill in January of this year. Sen. Dickerson is an anesthesiologist by profession.
The House Criminal Justice subcommittee voted on the measure Tuesday. During the meeting, patient activists, lobbyists, and representatives of law enforcement packed the committee chamber.
Stacie Mathes explained to lawmakers how medical marijuana has helped her sick daughter, according to reports in local media.
“I am here because I know it works,” Mathes said. “If we had THC when we had the four medications she was on, it would not have taken us 11-months and days and days and days of withdrawals.”
Law enforcement took their predictable prohibitionist stance. Terry Ashe, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association, also addressed the panel. His group is opposed to cannabis because of its status under federal law.
“I am not here to practice medicine,” said Ashe. “We are here to ask you all to understand we are not going to support Schedule One drugs in the state.”
The situation became dramatic when it came time for the subcommittee to vote. Six representatives make up the committee. Their 3-3 tie vote on whether to advance the bill would have meant the death of the measure.
But Rep. Beth Harwell, the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, exercised her power to break the tie. Her “aye” vote allows the bill to continue the legislative process.
On To Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, voters will decide on the legalization of medicinal cannabis in June of this year. State Question 788 legalizes possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes if passed.
The state legislature is working on measures that would regulate the cannabis industry if Question 788 is successful. Senate Bill 1120 limits the number of licenses for businesses and allows the state to set prices on cannabis products.
The legislation also specifies the medical conditions for which doctors may prescribe medical marijuana. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill on Monday by a 6-5 vote, allowing it to move on.
Sen. Ervin Yen, a Republican from Oklahoma City, wrote the bill. He sees himself as a solitary cannabis advocate.
“I’m the only guy in the Senate that’s trying to legalize marijuana. The only one,” said Yen, according to published reports. “And I think if Oklahoma’s going to do it, we need to do it the right way.”
But activists who succeeded in putting Question 788 on the ballot are not happy with Yen’s proposals. Chip Paul of Oklahomans for Health said that limiting medical cannabis to a specific list of ailments is a step backward.
“Medical conditions are arbitrary. They’re always subject to change. We’ve written a progressive law that puts the decision in the hands of the physician. Our law ends up being more restrictive than any other in the country,” said Paul.
Final Hit: These Two States Are Slowly Moving Toward Medical Marijuana
Responding to critics, Sen. Yen said his bill is a starting point, and he’s open to compromise.
“There’s stuff in it that could be changed because it’s a work in progress,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Ervin Yen. “As you can imagine, legalizing marijuana, there’s a lot of moving parts with that.”
But he also noted he believes Question 788 goes too far.
“It’s titled ‘medical’ but in my opinion, it’s recreational. I don’t want that for Oklahoma,” he said.