Legislators in Tennessee and Nebraska Advance Proposals to Legalize Medical Marijuana This Year
Even Republican-dominated Southern and Midwestern states are acknowledging the medical benefits of cannabis.
Published on January 19, 2018

Photo via LPETTET

Scientific evidence confirming the medicinal properties of cannabis is getting harder and harder to ignore, and even conservative, Republican-dominated states are beginning to show support for medical marijuana. This week, Republican legislators in Tennessee proposed a bill to legalize oil-based medical marijuana, and on the very same day a Nebraska state senator proposed a ballot measure to let the state vote on allowing medical cannabis.

Tennessee state Rep. Jeremy Faison and Sen. Steve Dickerson introduced the Medical Cannabis Only Act of 2018 on Thursday. This bill would allow patients suffering from over a dozen qualifying conditions, including PTSD, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, or seizure disorders, to use oil-based medical cannabis products. The legislation would not allow users to possess or grow cannabis plant material, however, and each qualifying patient would be issued a registration card with a chip that would prevent a patient from purchasing more cannabis than their doctor prescribed.

"Some of our sickest Tennesseans desperately want the freedom to choose what is best for their own health, and they want to be able to make that decision with their doctor," Faison said in a statement reported by the Times Free Press. "Now is the time for a safe and healthy alternative to opiates, psychotropics and anti-inflammatories." Unfortunately, the bill faces a great deal of opposition in the conservative state government. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has said that he is opposed to any form of cannabis legalization, citing the disproven myth that cannabis is “a gateway drug,” the Tennessean reports.

A Nebraska state senator is also working to legalize medical cannabis in her home state. Democratic state Sen. Anna Wishart introduced Legislative Resolution 293CA, which would place a constitutional amendment to allow medical cannabis on this year's state election ballot. “Tens of thousands of Nebraskans are needlessly suffering because they don’t have access to medical cannabis, including veterans, children and the terminally ill,” said Wishart according to the Omaha World-Herald. “Nebraska leaders have failed to act and provide these Nebraskans and their doctors the freedom to make decisions for their patients, without fear.”

Wishart introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana last year, which would have allowed doctors in the state to recommend medical cannabis to patients suffering from 19 qualifying conditions. Like the Tennessee bill, this proposed MMJ program was also restrictive, and would not allow patients to smoke marijuana flower or grow plants themselves. Regardless of these limitations on use, the state's Attorney General's Office and law enforcement agencies strongly opposed the bill, ultimately preventing it from succeeding. But if Wishart can get 30 state legislators to support her new resolution, the decision of whether or not to legalize medical cannabis will be up to the state's voters this November.

Currently, 29 states, Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico all have medical cannabis programs in some form. As the body of scientific research proving the medical benefits of cannabis grows, even strongly right-leaning states are beginning to change their opinions on marijuana. In conservative Kentucky, a Republican Senate leader even proposed a bill to allow full recreational legalization this week. All of these measures face strong opposition from prohibitionists in office, but the very fact that they are gaining ground is a promising sign for the future of cannabis reform.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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