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Medical marijuana bill advances through TN Senate committees

Support for legalizing its use to help those with certain diseases has been gradually building in the state.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As Tennessee lawmakers enter the closing stretch of the current legislative session, the prospects for passage of a medical marijuana bill remain alive, at least in the Senate.

State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, a Knoxville Republican and the leader of the local legislation delegation, is sponsoring a bill that has passed committees and is bound in a matter of days for the Senate floor.

It decriminalizes use of cannabis for people suffering from certain maladies and disease such as ALS, cancer, epilepsy and Parkinson's. A growing number of states have approved use of marijuana for those with serious health problems and those facing end of life.

Massey, a supporter for several years now, argues enactment just makes sense.

“In a year that we are doing criminal justice reform that’s a major part of the governor’s initiative this year, do we really want to be criminalizing Tennesseans that are just trying to get some relief from some very significant illnesses where traditional medicine has not ben able to work for them?" she told WBIR.

A companion bill in the House sponsored by state Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, has been put on the Criminal Justice Committee calendar for review Monday. Co-sponsors include state Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville.

State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, has been a consistent supporter in recent years of a medical marijuana bill for Tennessee. He's previously led an ad hoc committee on medical cannabis.

Faison has told WBIR there are too many sick people who could benefit from legal cannabis options to ease their pain.

Many lawmakers, however, oppose the idea as ripe for abuse and against federal law.

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