Medical marijuana bill with Republican sponsor likely to emerge

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A medical marijuana bill likely to have a Republican sponsor on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill is in the works and could be unveiled by Friday.

News 2 has learned that a well-known longtime lobbyist hired by supporters of medical marijuana has been working with a Republican member of the GOP-dominated House to sponsor the legislation.

Both the lobbyist and the lawmaker have declined to comment, except to indicate they would be ready to talk about the bill in a few days, and no later than next week.

Word of the new bill comes as Nashville Democrat Rep. Sherry Jones was once again scheduled to introduce her Medical Cannabis Access Act which she has sponsored unsuccessfully in one form or another for the last decade.

It was postponed a week in the Criminal Justice subcommittee Tuesday afternoon, but earlier Jones indicated that another version sponsored by an unnamed Republican House member was being developed.

She told News 2, “It’s going to be a lot like mine but it’s going to be a lot smaller and include a lot less of the diseases that we want to help.”

Many conservative Republicans may have been given political cover by a decision late last in a Washington spending bill that quietly ended the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana.

Personal situations of some lawmakers may also be swaying some conservative Republicans.

Rutherford County Republican Representative Mike Sparks has said he would support medical marijuana under some conditions, but said he would not be the sponsor.

He indicated to News 2 “if we could ever get ahold of Tennessee’s prescription drug problem…I would vote for it.”

Rep. Sparks cited how medical marijuana might have helped his wife’s grandmother who recently passed away from cancer.

He said, “It’s kind of hard for me as a lawmaker with someone who has six months to live to say you ‘you should not smoke marijuana’ because it’s bad for your health.”

It is arguments like those that are likely to be heard as someone other than a Democrat sponsors a bill that would allow medical marijuana usage in Tennessee.

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