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Lawmakers Plan to Renew Medical Pot Effort

KNOXVILLE — Heartened by President Donald Trump’s recent comments about marijuana, two Tennessee lawmakers who are physicians plan to renew efforts next year to legalize medical cannabis and are naming the bill after the president.

Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, who unsuccessfully pressed a medical cannabis bill in this year’s General Assembly, say they’re working on a bill that includes expanded medical research with treatment options that utilize cannabis and cannabis extracts under medical supervision.

The legislation is being called the Tennessee Responsible Use of Medicinal Plants, or TRUMP, Act.

Earlier this month, Trump seemingly broke with his own administration’s policy on marijuana by saying he was likely to back a federal congressional effort to gives states the ability to decide whether to legalize marijuana.

“We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes,” Trump told reporters, according to multiple news accounts.

Thirty states have now legalized marijuana either for medical or recreational use. Terry and Dickerson are not looking at legalizing the plant for recreational use. In 2015, Tennessee lawmakers passed a “Right to Try Act” that allowed terminally ill patients to try medicines that have passed Phase One of federal Food and Drug Administration trials.

In May, the president signed a similar law passed by Congress that gives terminally ill patients access to experimental medical treatments not yet approved by the FDA. “We believe Tennessee patients and physicians have the right to participate in research utilizing cannabis and that our agricultural, higher education, and life science industries are well equipped to be world leaders in this research,” Terry stated in a news release.

Terry added: “If you believe in freedom, advancing medicine, and providing opportunities for our industries, then you should support Tennesseans having the right to research and the right to try agricultural medicines.”

Dickerson said Marinol and Syndros are now FDA-approved, lab-produced synthetic THC drugs legal in all 50 states.

“And just this week, the FDA approved Epidiolex, which is an epilepsy drug derived from cannabis,” Dickerson said. “With a proven safety profile of these drugs and of cannabis, we should be able to develop and research medical cannabis products for patients in Tennessee, and our patients should have the right to participate in research and treatment under medical supervision.”

While efforts to legalize medical marijuana progressed through several Tennessee House committees this year, top Senate leaders opposed the legislation.

Among them were Republican Senate Speaker Randy McNally and Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile. Both lawmakers are retired pharmacists and have voiced reservations about such moves, saying more federal research is needed.

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