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Medical cannabis bill dies in Senate

Xavier Smith • Apr 4, 2018 at 1:48 PM

The sponsor of a bill that would allow medical cannabis use in certain circumstances effectively killed the bill Tuesday after he opted to send the measure to general subcommittee.

Senate sponsor Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, opted to send the measure to general subcommittee, where bills ultimately die, due to the lack of support from legislators.

The House Criminal Justice Committee approved an amended version of the bill last week.

House 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 Senate 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.

Faison voiced his frustration with the bill’s failure in the Senate on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you get to plant. Sometimes you get to water. Sometimes you get to harvest. I would love to be able to harvest but for right now, the [Tennessee Senate] only wants planting and watering. Medical cannabis is coming to Murica regardless of the naysayers,” Faison wrote on Twitter.

Wilson County Commissioner Terry Ashe, Tennessee Sheriff’s Association executive director and former Wilson County sheriff, spoke to state legislators in February 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.

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