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Tennessee Senate Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

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A Tennessee Senate committee approved a restrictive medical marijuana legalization bill on Wednesday.

The legislation as originally drafted requested that the state Health Department study the possibility of a medical cannabis program and report back on its findings by December.

But per an amendment from the bill’s sponsor that was approved by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, that language was stricken and a measure was inserted providing for a medical cannabis program in the state. A staffer told Marijuana Moment this procedure is common practice in the legislature to open the door to more wide-ranging legislation.

While the amendment would establish legal access to forms of medical marijuana for patients, sales of flower and edibles would be prohibited. It also calls for the establishment of a “Clinical Cannabis Commission” that would be responsible for issuing licenses to marijuana businesses and cannabis recommendations to patients.

But for reform advocates, another committee-approved amendment would prove more prohibitive and consequential.

That measure would effectively kneecap the proposed cannabis law by requiring a change in the federal status of cannabis before such a program is implemented. As is stands, marijuana remains a strictly prohibited substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The amendment requires cannabis to be rescheduled from its current designation as a Schedule I drug under the CSA before marijuana sales would be authorized.

According to The Tennessean, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Dickerson (R), became frustrated over the proposal.

“We are doing the best we can with a tough situation,” the senator said at the hearing. “We are trying to navigate a minefield here.”

Patients and advocates testified before the committee, urging members to support the bill and allow those suffering from debilitating conditions to access cannabis, especially in cases where traditional pharmaceuticals have failed.

“The Tennessee General Assembly should heed the will of voters and enact a comprehensive, compassionate medical cannabis law this year,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “It is unconscionable that patients with serious medical conditions are forced to choose between needless suffering or risking arrest, prosecution, and incarceration to relieve their symptoms.”

The House companion version of the legislation was approved by a subcommittee earlier this month, but it was deferred from full committee action on Tuesday and placed on the Health Committee’s calendar for next week.

The Senate panel-approved version, meanwhile, is being sent to the  body’s Government Operations Committee. It’s possible that members there could remove the provision requiring a change to federal law before Tennessee can implement a medical marijuana program.

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Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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