The Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & Other Addiction services, or TAADAS, works to educate the state about addiction, prevention and recovery.
“We’ve evolved around advocacy issues in the last few years to be much more engaged in the state legislature, even in Congress around some federal legislation,” said TAADAS Executive Director Mary Linden Salter.
Salter attended the North American Cannabis Summit in Denver in 2017 to get a pulse on legislation across the country. TAADAS then published a white paper with its stance on cannabis policy.
“We took the position that because we are addiction professionals and not medical professionals and certainly not pain management specialists, that we wouldn’t take a position on whether or not it’s an appropriate medical treatment, because that’s really for another cadre of medical professionals, not for us,” Salter said.
The association remained neutral and said in summary “TAADAS does not condone medical cannabis or seek to limit it.”
Salter said TAADAS is not taking a position on recreational legalization either, but instead focusing on what would be needed if it were legalized in the future.
Like alcohol, some people use marijuana occasionally without issue, but others become addicted. Marijuana is considered a substance that can lead to dependence or addiction disorders by the American Psychiatric Association.
“Cannabis is an addictive substance, and we have a vested interest in making sure that there are appropriate safeguards in place that if you implement something like this, that is taken into consideration,” Salter said.
She said those safeguards should include upfront funding for addiction and recovery services.
“If we’re going to do this, let’s go into it with a policy that is proactive rather than reactive,” Salter said. “If treatment dollars don’t come with legalization, we won’t have the capacity in any way, shape or form to help people who need access to treatment.”
The other area of concern, Salter said, is ensuring legalization wouldn’t make it easier for kids to get their hands on pot. Studies overwhelmingly show marijuana use in adolescence can stunt brain development, which continues until about age 25.
“That window is key to making sure we have enough neural pathways and neuroreceptors to be able to do the job that your brain needs to do,” Salter said.
Bills to legalize medical marijuana are once again being introduced in the Tennessee legislature. Recreational pot hasn’t been proposed. But if it is in the future, TAADAS will advocate for funding and policies that are proactive, not reactive.
Salter just traveled this week to the 2019 North American Cannabis Summit in Los Angeles.
TAADAS will take the information learned there and publish an updated cannabis policy paper in the coming months.