NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Despite it polling extremely high, cannabis measures appear to be dead this year in Tennessee.
“My sister had sickle cell and she recently passed, but medical marijuana – if it was legal – was something she could have used to manage her pain because she was in a lot of pain,” said TSU student, Dacia Ringo.
Ringo’s sentiment is echoed by more than 80% of Tennesseans, according to an MTSU poll.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee voted down Sen. Janice Bowling’s (R-Tullahoma) bill to create a medical cannabis program in the state.
“It grieves me. Now that sounds strong and dramatic, but it really does grieve me for the people of Tennessee because now 38 states have it,” Bowling said. “Tennessee does not.”
The committee has been a buzzsaw to cannabis legislation over the past few years. In fact, last year, roughly the same bill failed in the same committee 6-2.
This year, it faced the same result with the vote at 6-3. Five of those six legislators were the exact same as the year before.
“I would be encouraged if we had the FDA or the American Medical Association say, ‘This is how much is needed to alleviate this,’” Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).
Lundberg said until it comes off the Schedule I classification and has more regulation, he’s not for it.
“Bad policy, number one. But let me challenge you and say, ‘Define what medical marijuana is. What does a prescription look like? How many milligrams and what should it be?’” Lundberg said. “There is no federal standard for that because it’s obviously a Schedule I drug.”
But Bowling argued that’s too late.
“We’ve waited a day late and a dollar short because the rushing sound will be product coming into Tennessee from around the world, some of it not good,” she said. “Then it would also be the money that’s rushing out of Tennessee.”
Many people consider Tennessee to be one of the most conservative states in the union, along with Alabama and Mississippi. But even those two states have a medical cannabis program.
“I think it’s just an abomination,” Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis). “I think that in our quest to become the most conservative state in the nation, we’re actually depriving our own people of options they can have to save their lives and make them feel better.”
Still, lawmakers press on and promise this isn’t the end of the fight. Bowling promised to bring the bill back next year.
“The bill is good,” she said. “The bill really demonstrates seed to sale, everything that has to be done.”