Two Tennessee lawmakers are introducing a bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana for patients with a variety of medical conditions and 50 grow operations, 15 of which would be in "distressed" areas of the state.
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, ceremoniously introduced the bill in the Legislative Library on Wednesday, though the bill has yet to be formally filed.
The legislation would allow the use of medical marijuana for Tennesseans with a specific list of medical conditions, including cancer, ALS, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, seizures and Alzheimer's, among others. The Department of Health and Tennessee Higher Education Commission would be able to add conditions based on doctor's findings.
The state would generate revenue through licensing by three state departments, Agriculture, Safety and Health. Each department would develop their own rules and pricing for licensing.
Medical practitioners able to prescribe medication would also have to get a special license to prescribe medical marijuana. Patients would also have to get a special $35 medical card to buy doctor-recommended strains of marijuana, and would have to use the marijuana in their home, not in a vehicle or in public.
Each grow house will be required to have security in place, including locks, cameras, and security officers.
Though being sponsored by Republicans in the Republican-dominated legislature, the measure is expected to meet some resistance from members within the GOP, including House Majority Leader Rep. Glen Casada, R-Brentwood.
The measure is part of a push by lawmakers to address an opioid epidemic in Tennessee, where more opioid prescriptions are handed out than there are people. Rep. Ryan Williams, the House Republican Caucus Chair, told the Tennessean there will be a "big push" for medical marijuana during the 2017 legislative session to address the epidemic.
A November poll by Vanderbilt University indicates a growing acceptance among Tennesseans for less restrictions on the use of marijuana. Seventy-five percent of those polled responded that marijuana should be legal for personal use (33 percent) or legal for only medicinal use (42 percent).
The results of the same poll in 2015 indicated 26 percent of respondents said marijuana should be legal for personal use, showing a growing level of acceptance among Tennesseans.
Faison has been conducting research into the use of marijuana in recent months. Sources in the legislature say he's passionate about the legislation and how medical marijuana might be used in Tennessee, specifically among military veterans who might be battling post-traumatic stress disorder or other conditions related to their service.
Earlier this year, Faison went to Colorado to research Colorado's legislation and outright legalization. He documented the trip on Facebook, and interviewed people about their use of marijuana to treat medical conditions.
Reach Jake Lowary at 615-881-7039 or on Twitter at @JakeLowary.