Altered medical marijuana bill delayed in House

Xavier Smith • Mar 22, 2018 at 4:21 PM

Lawmakers delayed a vote Wednesday on an amended version of a bill that would allow certain exceptions for oil-based medical marijuana use in the state.

Legislators delayed the bill one week due to time constraints with the House Criminal Justice Committee. Committee chairman William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, said the bill would be the first bill heard next week after several people and groups did not get the opportunity to present their arguments Wednesday.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Crosby, introduced an amendment that alters several key pieces of the bill but has the same ultimate goal.

“After listening to several people, frustrations on a lot of different sides, I decided to put forth an amendment that would basically decriminalize the sick Tennesseans that we’ve identified with the 15 qualifying conditions,” Faison said.

The bill would allow the oil-based marijuana products for patients with cancer, HIV or AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, severe arthritis, Crohn’s disease, schizophrenia and more.

The previous version of the bill would have created a commission, composed of doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement officials, educators and patient advocates, to provide oversight and accountability for the industry. The commission would issue registration cards to qualifying patients and more.

Faison’s amendment eliminated those measures and would require qualifying patients to get a prescription from an out-of-state doctor, which would allow them to use the products without arrest.

Wilson County Commissioner Terry Ashe, Tennessee Sheriff’s Association executive director and former Wilson County sheriff, spoke to state legislators last month about the measure, prior to the amendment.

Ashe said his critique of the legislation comes from a law enforcement standpoint.

“It’s really quite frustrating, lately, when we may be down the hall, and somebody’s asking us to enforce one federal law, and then we get asked on the other side to turn a blind eye to this federal law. It’s really perplexing, quite frankly, for law enforcement in this state,” Ashe said.

Twenty-nine other states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana, although it is still illegal under federal law.

“There’s not a sheriff in this state who doesn’t want to see children get well. Our position is not about the medical side, and the sheriffs in this state are not going to practice medicine, but we are going to enforce the law,” he said.

Ashe said law enforcement officials would need guidelines from legislators to accurately enforce laws.

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