TN: Medical Cannabis Bill Should Clear Next Hurdle

Photo Credit: Reuters

State Rep. Jeremy Faison feels confident that the votes are there for approval of the Medical Cannabis Act of 2018 bill from the House Criminal Justice Committee.

The committee is expected to take a full vote on the measure Wednesday.

A vote on the bill has been postponed a couple of times since it jumped its first legislative hurdle earlier this month in a subcommittee vote. House Speaker Beth Harwell, who is a proponent of the bill, broke a tie in the Criminal Justice subcommittee vote.

This time, Faison said the votes are there in the full committee so that a tie-breaking vote by Harwell will not be needed.

The proposed legislation would allow patients with an assortment of conditions, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, pain management issues and post-traumatic stress disorder, to obtain cards allowing them to buy cannabis from licensed dispensaries. Tennessee would be only the third state in the South, after Florida and Arkansas, to allow medicinal cannabis.

Two years ago, Faison led a legislative charge that ultimately got the passage of a cannabis oil bill to give patients who suffer from seizures legal access to CBD in Tennessee. Among those who benefited from this legislation was Josie Mathes, a Greene County girl who suffers from severe seizures and did not benefit from traditional medication.

Her mother, Stacie Mathes, has been a strong advocate for medical cannabis, which she said has greatly benefited her daughter, now 4 years old and attending school at the early learning program.

“I’d like for Greene County to know that I paid Red Ivory Strategies (a professional polling firm) to do a poll in Greene County. We only polled Republican primary voters — that’s the strongest of the strong Republicans, the ones who vote in every Republican primary. Seventy-three percent of Republican primary voters agree with what I’m trying to do. That’s strong,” Faison said.

“This is a major process that we’re undertaking in the Bible Belt, and it has taken some serious education with a lot of my colleagues,” Faison said. “We have been working tirelessly over the last few weeks, and we have the votes in full Criminal Justice to come out this Wednesday.

“You’re going to see a positive vote, and we believe we’ve got it even without Speaker Harwell coming in to break a tie,” he added. “We believe we’ve got a full vote, and we’re going to be able to get it out with a positive recommendation this Wednesday afternoon.

“My friend, Stacie Mathes, will be there with little Josie, making sure people know how they feel about this,” Faison added.

Mathes said she has received positive reaction in Greene County to her fight for the bill’s passage.

She said she feels that — as more and more people are educated about the bill and learn what it does and who it would impact — that more support is given to it.

She encouraged people across the state to reach out to their elected state officials in the Tennessee General Assembly and let them know how they feel about the bill.