[Editor’s Note: Tennessee elected a conservative Governor in 2018. Still, there is plenty of motivation to legalize medical cannabis for Tennessee citizens.]
Two marijuana decriminalization bills have been introduced by lawmakers in the Tennessee legislature, according to media reports. One would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of pot, while the other would protect holders of medical marijuana identification cards from other states. Both bills were sponsored in the Tennessee Senate by Democratic Sen. Sara Kyle and in the House of Representatives by fellow Democrat Rep. Gloria Johnson.
The first measure, SB256/HB235, would amend state statute to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of cannabis. The second bill, SB260/HB234, would permit holders of medical marijuana program identification cards from other states to possess up to one-half an ounce of cannabis. The bill also removes criminal penalties for medical marijuana cardholders who transfer cannabis to other cardholders.
Johnson told local media that she decided to sponsor the bills, which were written by Kyle, partly due to the personal experience of her father, who had multiple sclerosis.
“I still believe he would have benefited from medical marijuana in treating the tremendous pain he was in,” Johnson said. “And if we have something who can benefit folks visiting family in Tennessee, they shouldn’t be punished for taking their medication.”
Johnson also believes that decriminalizing marijuana is a matter of criminal justice reform and treating simple possession appropriately.
MMJ Bill Also Pending
The bills from Kyle and Johnson come less than three weeks after two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. Ron Travis, announced plans to introduce legislation that would legalize medical marijuana in Tennessee.
After introducing the measures, Bowling said in a press release that she believes cannabis can be part of the solution to the nationwide epidemic of opioid overdose deaths.
“I have been in the fight against opioids and pill mills. Opioids have become a tragedy for Tennesseans,” Bowling said. “Our constituents can use a natural and effective option for pain relief that is not controlled or pushed by Big Pharma. When I see medical studies showing that states with medical cannabis programs had an average 23 percent drop in opioid prescription use and overdoses, I see a real option we can use.”
If the bill succeeds, patients with certain qualifying health conditions would be able to obtain a medical marijuana identification card to allow them to legally purchase cannabis. A commission would be created to regulate patient access and license cultivators and retailers. Bowling said the experience of other states was called upon to draft this medical cannabis solution for Tennessee.
“I wanted a new bill that is Tennessee-specific and takes the best of what worked in other states and leaves out what did not. This bill delivers what I wanted,” Bowling added. “The legislature has not yet had that kind of bill to consider. The Bowling-Travis bill creates a fully functioning framework to license growing, producing and dispensing operations.”
All four cannabis bills are now pending before the Tennessee legislature.