Although Tennessee has not exactly been the pillar of marijuana reform in the Land of the Free, all of that could soon change depending on the results of a progressive, new study ordered by House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally.
Earlier last week, key members of Tennessee’s legislative forces formed a special committee for the sole purpose of examining the pros and cons of legalizing medical marijuana.
The group, which was assembled under the title Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis, will “study, evaluate, analyze and undertake a comprehensive review regarding whether the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes is in the best interest of the state," according to a letter first obtained by the Tennessean.
Senator Steve Dickerson and Representative Jeremy Faison, the two lawmakers who made a push during the 2017 session to put a medical marijuana law on the books, will oversee the committee.
Republican lawmakers Sheila Butt, Bob Ramsey, Sam Whitson, Richard Briggs, Rusty Crowe, Joey Hensley, as well as Democrats Arums Akbar and Jeff Yarrow will also be involved.
At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Dickerson and Faison introduced the Medical Cannabis Act of 2017, which was designed to give patients with around 12 qualified conditions access to cannabis medicine. But there were concerns, especially among the Republican-controlled legislature, that the bill was nothing more than a gateway to full legalization.
Reports indicate that the goal of the new study is to provide the General Assembly with guidance on how to properly go about establishing a comprehensive medical marijuana program. There has been much discussion over the matter in Tennessee, ever since House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Republican candidate for governor, said she was open to a policy that allowed medical marijuana.
Harwell is one of the state’s leading soldiers in the fight against the state’s opioid problem, and she recently launched a task force aimed at coming up with some solutions to the crisis. There is speculation that Tennessee may be able to put a leash on its painkiller scourge, which claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people in 2015, by making cannabis available to patients.
In fact, Representative Faison attempted to make that very argument earlier this year before the state’s House Health Committee squashed his medical marijuana proposal.
"I've talked to enough people who are like, 'Jeremy, if it comes to me, I'll vote for it, but I'm not going to get out in front of it'," Faison told Nashville Public Radio. "A lot of my colleagues are scared of it."
According to a recent Tennesseans for Conservative Action poll, 52 percent of the state’s voters are in favor of medical marijuana.