TN: Local Legislator Presses For Medical Marijuana Legalization

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Katelyn Baker

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Two years ago, State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, spearheaded legislation that led to the legalization of prescription cannabis oil in Tennessee.

Now the legislator, who represents Cocke County and a portion of Greene County, is setting his sites on the legalization of medical marijuana in the state.

To date, 28 states across the U.S. have legalized medical marijuana. Polls show that a majority of Tennesseans support medical marijuana.

Faison, along with State Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, has introduced legislation that would legalize the plant for medical purposes. The pair stress that they do not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

In fact, Faison said following a three-day trip to Colorado that he believes that state will soon consider repealing its recreational use laws.

Dickerson, a doctor, said the bill addresses concerns put forward during the 2016 legislative session that he said were focused on treating marijuana "like a medicine."

"What this bill is not is opening the door to recreational use; this is not a bill that will allow people to get high on the streets," Dickerson told The Tennessean. "This is, however, a bill that would bring a necessary medicine to some of the sickest and most critically ill Tennesseans."

In mid-February, the parents of 10-year-old Cameron Bush testified during a committee meeting that medical marijuana may be their son's best chance at a quality life and California Marine Corps veteran Roberto Pickering said that medical marijuana has been more effective than any other prescription he's tried to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD.

"It's the right thing to do for veterans," Pickering told members of the media following his testimony. "Providing options other than prescription pills or opioids."

The Faison-Dickerson bill allows for 50 grow houses statewide, with each allowed to run one on-site dispensary and two storefront dispensaries. It has requirements for security and licensing for those facilities. The bill would also require doctors to get a special marijuana prescribing card and a limit on which ailments can be treated with marijuana.

HB0495/SB0803 can be followed online: Tennessee General Assembly.

On Feb. 28, a Faison representative reported that:

"Currently, a caption bill has been filed; an amendment will be added/filed that will make the bill, but this has not occurred yet. It has been assigned to the Criminal Justice committee, but until the amendment is filed it will not be put on notice in that committee to be heard."

According to The Tennessean, the state legislature has discussed measures in the past to legalize medical marijuana, but none have gained much traction.

Among those efforts, Dickerson and Rep. Ryan Williams, now the House Republican Caucus chairman, co-sponsored a similar bill to legalize medical marijuana during the 2015 session, but it died in committee. Democrats also have previously sponsored legislation on the issue.

Other Republicans, such as Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, have taken more hard-line positions on marijuana. Lamberth told the Tennessean in September he was considering proposing legislation that would withhold state highway funds if cities passed ordinances decriminalizing possession of marijuana.

According to The Tennessean, the Faison/Dickerson legislation would allow the use of medical marijuana for Tennesseans with a specific list of medical conditions, including cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures and Alzheimer's. The Department of Health and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission would be able to add conditions based on doctors' findings.

The state would generate revenue through licensing by three state departments: Agriculture, Safety and Health. Each department would develop its own rules and pricing for licensing.

Of the 50 grow operations statewide, the first 15 of which would be in "distressed" areas of the state.

Medical practitioners able to prescribe medication also would have to get a special license to prescribe medical marijuana. Patients would have to get a special $35 medical card to buy doctor-recommended strains of marijuana and would have to use the marijuana in their home, not in a vehicle or in public.

The Department of Safety would oversee transport and security, and the Department of Health would oversee items available in dispensaries.

Each grow house would be required to have security in place, including locks, cameras and security officers. Each grow operation would be allowed to have one dispensary at the grow house and two storefronts, which equates to 150 dispensaries across the state.

Revenue would be distributed across state agencies in the following proposed structure, according to a fact sheet distributed by Faison and Dickerson:

- 20 percent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (earmarked for "drug intervention")

- 10 percent to the Sheriffs' Association (for "drug training");

- 10 percent to the Police Chief Association (for "drug training");

- 20 percent to the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD);

- 20 percent to K-12 education; and

- 20 percent to the executive branch, or the governor's office.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Local Legislator Presses For Medical Marijuana Legalization
Author: Lisa Warren
Contact: (423) 638-4181
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Website: The Greenville Sun