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House sponsor alters medical cannabis legislation

Joel Ebert

USA TODAY NETWORK - TENNESSEE

The sponsor of a bill that would allow medical cannabis in Tennessee has significantly altered the measure.

While presenting the bill in front of the House Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Jeremy Faison, RCrosby, introduced an amendment that significantly scaled back the effort.

The rewritten version of the legislation would prevent Tennesseans suffering from 15 maladies from being arrested and prosecuted provided they have a doctor’s note prescribing cannabis, said Faison.

The allowable maladies include:

cancer HIV and AIDS Hepatitis C amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD

Alzheimer’s disease severe arthritis inflammatory bowel disease Crohn’s disease ulcerative colitis multiple sclerosis Parkinson’s disease schizophrenia or a number of chronic or debilitating diseases.

Faison, who dubbed the measure a decriminalization effort, said he was forced to rework the bill for fear of failure.

“You’re always working to meet the needs of the individual committee that you’re in,” he said.

The original version of the bill outlined a program that would have required eligible patients to obtain a registration card, equipped with a chip reader, from the state. It would have also required participating doctors to obtain a license from the state.

Further, the original bill would have also created a new state board, tasked with regulating the amount that could be purchased.

All of that is done away with in the new version of the bill.

Instead, the rewritten measure requires patients seeking to use medical cannabis to obtain a prescription from a doctor. Faison said such a requirement would mean people would have to obtain a prescription from an out-of-state doctor.

Neither version of the measure would permit recreational use of marijuana.

Although Faison was hoping to have the House committee vote on the measure Wednesday, the panel abruptly ended due to time constraints. The bill is expected to be brought up in committee again next week.

After the committee, Faison addressed reporters in an at-times fiery, impromptu news conference where he said people opposed to the measure are “stuck in Reefer Madness.”

“This has all become a political mumbo jumbo,” he said.

Faison’s decision to change the bill comes roughly three weeks after House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, cast a tie-breaking vote in a subcommittee to keep the measure alive.

As was the case three weeks ago, state health officials objected to the legislation as it was discussed in committee Wednesday.

Officials told the committee that marijuana impairs judgment, is an addictive substance and that there’s no conclusive evidence that it helps fight certain ailments, including Parkinson’s disease.

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