It looks like Tennessee residents will have to wait a lot longer before medical cannabis becomes legal in the state. That is because the senate sponsor of the medical cannabis bill decided to withdraw the proposal even before the senate could vote on it.
State Senator Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville) decided to pull the plug on the Medical Cannabis Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. He said that the bill “lacked the votes” needed for it to move forward.
Just last week, the House Criminal Justice Committee approved the amended version of the bill.
CannabizDaily reported that the Medical Cannabis Act’s House sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Crosby), had introduced some amendments to the bill, which amendments significantly scaled back its provisions.
These changes included deleting a provision in the original draft that would have formed a new state regulatory board in charge of overseeing the patients’ use of medical cannabis. The need for registration cards when purchasing cannabis from dispensaries and the need for doctors to obtain a special license to prescribe the drug had also been taken out.
The modified version of the bill was watered down and essentially just protected medical cannabis patients from criminal prosecution. The possession of medical cannabis would be decriminalized as long as a patient suffers from any of 15 qualifying medical conditions. Moreover, the revised draft indicated that the plant form of the drug won’t be allowed, and patients would have to travel out of state where medical cannabis is legal in order to get a doctor’s prescription and in order to obtain the drug itself.
(You can read about the CannabizDaily article about it here.)
“The way the House made changes to the measure had left [Senator Steven Dickerson] with very limited options on how to proceed.” – Lt. Gov. Randy McNally
Dickerson, who had supported the original bill, told colleagues on Tuesday that the amended, watered down version would only hurt patients in Tennessee more than help them. The amended bill, he said, encourages patients to go out of the state and transport the drug across state lines, which is probably against federal law, and even state law.
According to Dickerson, he is afraid passing the revised bill would only forestall any future efforts to provide a much more thoughtful and widespread legislative framework. He added that instead of dragging out the fight interminably, he thought it was a better decision to kill the bill.
In response to Dickerson’s move, Faison said he was disappointed that the Senate won’t be holding a vote on the bill anymore. “The state senate is not there yet despite medical cannabis having an abundance of evidence supporting its benefits,” he said.
“We tried. We have given it our best this year, and we will live to fight another time,” Faison added.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) had earlier expressed skepticism regarding the proposed legislation’s prospects in the senate.
After Dickerson decided to withdraw the bill, McNally released a statement saying that the way the House made changes to the measure had left the senator with very “limited options” on how he would proceed.
McNally, however, said that he is looking forward to continued discussions and debate on the issue of cannabis legalization in the next years. “I am confident that this matter will remain to be a contentious one,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Dickerson vowed to continue advancing the issue of medical cannabis in future legislative sessions.
Dickerson said he was encouraged by a recent study that found that states that had legalized medical cannabis saw a decline in opioid prescriptions. (See report on this study here.)
“I am committed to the proposition that medical marijuana is a medication and that it can be substituted for other drugs that are much more harmful,” Dickerson said.