After a series of delayed votes and legislative challenges, a Tennessee cannabis bill has failed. Now, any medical cannabis bill in this state will be postponed until at least 2020. That’s a major disappointment for people of Tennessee looking forward to legalization. So far, 33 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation allowing for some form of medical marijuana.
What Was in This Latest Bill?
Sponsored by Sen. Janice Bowling and Rep. Ron Travis, this bill would have allowed for doctors to prescribe the medical use of cannabis to patients in the state. To qualify, residents would have to be diagnosed with a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, etc.
The bill also would have established a comprehensive legal infrastructure for farms, dispensaries, and processors. This would ensure safe, high-quality cannabis for patients.
While the use of vapes, edibles, oils, and lotions would be permitted under this bill, smoking marijuana would not.
Sen. Bowling told Nashville Public Radio that while she had formerly been against the idea of medical marijuana, she now sees that cannabis is a viable alternative to opioids.
“I don’t want to create a bill still based on our prejudices, based on our perceptions of the ’60s or whenever,” Bowling said at a press conference Wednesday. “I want to have a bill that is based on current best evidence and data.”
Why Did The Bill Fail?
Even though this bill would have helped patients seeking an alternative to opioids, some people are still adamantly against legalization in any form. Governor Bill Lee has been outspoken about his opposition to medical cannabis and decriminalization efforts.
“I think we’ve yet to fully search and fully utilize and fully research and expand on the use of nonaddictive, low-THC CBD oils in this state as a treatment for those conditions,” Lee said during an October debate. “For me, the data is not substantive enough to show that medical marijuana is the right approach right now. I would pursue other options first.”
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director David Rausch testified that he felt the bill was “an attack on safety.” He continued to oppose the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying, “I have talked to my peers throughout the country–all 33-states that have approved this and they all say they wish they could put this genie back in the bottle.”
Lawmakers were forced to delay any efforts for cannabis legislation in the state until 2020. Sen. Steve Dickerson, a former doctor and cannabis advocate, said the decision to push back the vote on the legislation was better than watching it fail in committee.
“You can run a bill and have it defeated, or you can keep it alive,” Dickerson told the USA TODAY Network. “And practically speaking, we decided to keep it alive and not have a defeat for perception more than anything.”
So What’s Next For Legalization?
While Tennessee lawmakers couldn’t push this particular bill over the finish line, that’s no reason to be pessimistic about medical cannabis prospects as a whole.
Lawmakers in Georgia passed comprehensive medical cannabis legislation and Texas lawmakers are going to vote to decriminalize in the near future. The momentum is building and the pro-cannabis movement is sweeping the nation.
Unfortunately, there are setbacks, like this delay in Tennessee and other recent failed legislation in New Jersey. Progress comes one step at a time. Tennessee will have to bide their time for now, gather more support, and push for legislation again in 2020.