A bill to legalize possession of marijuana for some patients with certain medical conditions is going to the Senate floor in Tennessee following committee approval. Lawmakers in that panel also approved a separate measure to create a commission to study state and federal cannabis laws.
The first bill, sponsored by Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R), would amend state statute to carve out a medical cannabis exception for people with written proof that they’ve been diagnosed with one of 11 conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and HIV/AIDS.
But there’s a catch: Tennessee doesn’t have any cannabis dispensaries where patients would be able to lawfully obtain the product. There seems to be something of a workaround, as the bill does stipulate that possessing marijuana or its derivatives would be legal if the person has proof they obtained it to treat a medical condition from “a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in a jurisdiction where the sale of the cannabis” is legal.
So hypothetically, a patient could go to another state and obtain a medical cannabis recommendation, purchase the product there and bring it back to Tennessee. But beyond being an onerous process for patients, the legislation also creates a series of restrictions for what kind of marijuana could be possessed.
The cannabis product couldn’t be intended for smoking or vaping; the amount of cannabis couldn’t be more than a 30-day supply or contain more than 2,800mg of THC; and it would have to be contained in its original packaging and labeled by the dispensary to indicate that it’s for therapeutic use.
In practice, it seems the proposal would be more likely to benefit out-of-state medical marijuana patients who travel through Tennessee with their medicine.
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation by a vote of 5-3 on Monday. It now heads to the floor for consideration.
Watch the panel discuss the medical cannabis reform proposal, around 1:16:10 into the video below:
This version that’s advancing is notably different than how the bill was introduced in February. At first, it would have simply requested that the Department of Health “perform a study on the licensure and regulation of cannabis for medical use” and report its findings to the legislature by December 15.
Massey told Marijuana Moment in an email on Wednesday that lawmakers “are working on a slightly different version in the House,” but her version “will go to a floor vote either later next week or the following week.”
Pleased to have passed SB667 in Senate Judiciary today which decriminalizes the use of medical cannabis for specific debilitating illnesses in TN. It is working its way thru the House.
— Becky Duncan Massey (@MasseyForSenate) April 14, 2021
The committee on Wednesday also approved legislation that would create a commission tasked with analyzing federal and state cannabis laws and helping to prepare legislation to legalize medical marijuana in the event that Congress rescheduled the plant. A separate panel advanced that bill with a negative recommendation last month, but it’s now heading to Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.
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Pressure to enact a cannabis policy change is coming from multiple neighboring states in Tennessee. Virginia legalized for adult use this month, a Senate-passed bill to legalize medical cannabis in Alabama is heading to the House floor and multiple reform bills have been introduced in North Carolina in recent weeks.
Another Senate committee approved a medical marijuana legalization bill last year, but it did not advance further before the end of the session.
Tennessee voters are broadly in favor of the policy change. Former House Speaker Glen Casada (R) released the results of a constituent survey in 2019 that showed 73 percent of those in his district back medical cannabis.
Another former GOP House speaker, Beth Harwell, highlighted her support for the policy change during her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018, and she referenced then-President Trump’s stated support for medical marijuana on the campaign trail.
Read the text of the bill to legalize possession of medical cannabis by some patients below: