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Medical Marijuana Sponsor Says Governor Will Sign Bill, but Lee's Office Says Otherwise

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - - One of the state Senate sponsors of legalizing medical marijuana says Governor Bill Lee will sign her bill, but the governor's office carefully disputes that characterization.

"The last time I was with him, he assured me he would sign this bill," Senator Janice Bowling told News 2 on Wednesday.

She indicated it was about two weeks ago during an economic development trip with the governor to her district.

Lee has repeatedly voiced opposition to legalizing medical marijuana or cannabis both in his campaign and most recently on Feb. 11.

"I think we ought to expand the use of low THC/CBD oils first to alternative treatments before we go there," the governor told News2 that day.

Senator Bowling says she was a "strong no" on medical marijuana before learning that so many people in her district wanted it, for diseases ranging cancer to Parkinson's, to ease pain.

The senator thinks the governor has made the same realization.

"I think it's important for the people to know that he pretty much has come full circle," Senator Bowling said. "He recognizes that as the bill is written now -- he can support the bill."

Her bill would set up a regulatory commission and allow medical cannabis in a variety of forms that include lotions, ointments, and pills, but not in a smoking form.

The senator said she is working with sponsors of another medical cannabis bill to make it into one single measure.

The governor's office pushed back on the Senator's remarks with a statement at mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Spokesperson Laine Arnold wrote:

"Senator Bowling and Gov. Lee are good friends, and they work together on a lot of issues. Unfortunately, in this instance, there seems to be a miscommunication because his position on cannabis legislation has not changed."

When apprised of the governor's office statement, Sen. Bowling issued her own statement about what she said about the governor's support for medical cannabis.

"Even though that is my recollection, certainly the Governor speaks for himself," Senator Bowling wrote in a statement to News 2. "Upon passage, I hope and expect that the Governor will carefully consider the legislation as it comes to his desk."

At this point, either one or both medical cannabis bills are expected to be introduced in committee within a week or two.

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