State Senator Janice Bowling and Rep. Ron Travis announced on Thursday they will introduce comprehensive legislation to regulate access to medical cannabis.
The proposal would allow qualified patients to obtain medical cards if they are diagnosed with specific medical conditions and purchase products from companies that are licensed by Tennessee and owned by Tennesseans to cultivate, process and dispense cannabis.
Since 1973 when the first state voted to de-criminalize cannabis, 33 states have approved medical cannabis programs. Around two-thirds of Americans now have access to medical programs and no state has repealed a medical program.
The Bowling-Travis bill is substantially different from other legislation proposed in previous years.
“I wanted a new bill that is Tennessee-specific and takes the best of what worked in other states and leaves out what did not. This bill delivers what I wanted,” Bowling added. “The legislature has not yet had that kind of bill to consider. The Bowling-Travis bill creates a fully functioning framework to license growing, producing and dispensing operations.”
In an interview with News 2, Sen. Bowling said she was previously against medical marijuana as recently as last year.
But after doing research and speaking with her constituents, she sees it as a viable tool to fight the opioid epidemic.
She’s wary, however, and hopes parameters placed in the bill will keep marijuana from being abused in Tennessee.
“What I want to make certain with my bill, is that we don’t have a well intention-ed pathway to hell,” Sen. Bowling explained. “Want this to be very well regulated, reasonably regulated.”
The Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association (TMCTA) endorses the Bowling-Travis bill, which is expected to be introduced formally within the next few weeks.
Some key elements of the bill are:
- A ‘FastTrack’ licensing system with statutory deadlines to kick off the process of incentivizing Tennessee residents and experienced companies to choose either a rural-based operation with a dispensary or an urban one;
- Establishing a self-funding commission responsible for regulating both patient access and the industry licensed to provided products for patients;
- Allowing residents to obtain a medical card as long as they have been diagnosed with a condition on the approved list. The card allows them to purchase legally; and
- Thoughtful regulatory controls on how cannabis products can be represented to the public, where and how the products can be sold and used, and prohibitions on conflicts of interests.
According to a release, polling across Tennessee during the last two years has shown that 80 percent of Tennesseans support access to medical cannabis.