Tennessee Medical Marijuana Bill Dead because Senate 'Scared,' Lawmaker Says
The landmark legislation that would have made medical use of marijuana legal in Tennessee is officially dead for the year.
The House sponsor of the legislation said Tuesday the bill was being taken off notice for the current legislative session and a task force would be established by legislative leaders House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally to discuss the issue this summer.
But Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said it's not because of the lack of support in his chamber that the bill (HB0495) died.
"The Senate, bless their heart, are just scared to death of their voters," Faison said Tuesday after the House Health Committee punted a non-binding marijuana-related resolution to summer study.
Faison said he believes the House would have voted for his measure, which would have established a medical marijuana program managed by three different state agencies and started in economically distressed parts of the state.
He said there still exists an irrational fear of marijuana and a stigma that it's a terrible drug.
"That plant — it's not killing us, it's the legal prescriptions that are killing us," he said.
The discussion in the House Health Committee on Tuesday was centered around a few testimonies that spread the gamut of those who support the use of medical marijuana and others who insist that medical research has not been conclusive about its benefits, specifically as it pertains to contributing to the decline of opioid abuse.
Faison said Tennesseans are overwhelmingly supportive of the measure. Specifically, he cited a poll from Tennesseans for Conservative Action poll in January, which indicated 52 percent of those polled — who Faison described as "hardcore tea party Republicans" — supported medical marijuana legislation and 31 percent opposed it.
Other polls, like those from MTSU and Vanderbilt, have shown similar trends in support across the state for the effort to legalize medical use of marijuana.
"Tennessee is there, my constituents are there, their constituents are there, I just have to get the Senate there," he said.
Faison said he would continue to pursue the legislation, which he has adamantly pushed as one way the state can address it's opioid epidemic.
"There are greater political implications today for being against medical marijuana than being for it," he said.