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Tennessee Lawmakers Debate Allowing Medical Cannabis For Some People With Cancer, Quadriplegia

Cannabis Research Foundation

Tennessee legislators may be cracking the door open to legalizing medical cannabis for a limited number of individuals.

Two bills are making progress in the state House of Representatives, including one that would permit the use of THC for quadriplegic veterans who were injured in the line of duty.

Co-sponsor John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, says House Bill 666/Senate Bill 1493 would allow the state to see how medical cannabis goes in a limited population.

“The individuals that I talked to that are in this category have asked me to keep it narrow,” Windle said in a House Health Subcommittee meeting Tuesday. “And maybe they can set an example for other people that Tennesseans are responsible and are reasonable and are sober.”

Windle said the use of cannabis might be more beneficial to veterans than current treatments, like opioids. Rep. Bryan Terry, a Republican from Murfreesboro who’s also a medical doctor, agreed, saying prescription opioids often don’t help with issues like muscle spasms and phantom pains in people who’ve lost use of their limbs.

“If somebody has sacrificed for my liberty, I’m with you on this bill,” Terry said.

The other cannabis-related bill, HB 239/SB 1209, would open use up more broadly to people suffering from cancer. Specifically, it would affect patients with “life-threatening cancer that has not responded to conventional treatment.”

Both bills would authorize only cannabis oils and extracts that would be taken orally or topically — not products to be smoked. While there are some exceptions to cannabis laws in Tennessee, none of the products being debated are currently legal.

That’s part of the reason the state departments of Health and Safety testified against the measures, warning of potential abuse or diversion. They noted that marijuana is still a Schedule I substance federally. They advocated waiting until marijuana is officially re-categorized as a less dangerous drug.

There’s still a ways to go before either bill would become law. They both passed in subcommittee today, and are now headed to the House Health Committee.

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