NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Some Tennesseans traveled as far as two hours away from home to share why medical marijuana would help their illnesses Wednesday, but lawmakers ran out of time during a committee hearing.
After hearing some arguments against it, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, said he feels health and law enforcement agencies aren’t focused on the lives could save.
“That whole notion that this is a Schedule I drug, you are a special kind of ignorant human being if you think this is still a Schedule I drug. That means there is no value to human life,” said Faison.
Andrea Houser traveled from Lawrenceburg, TN, to describe life with epilepsy. She‘s in favor of medical cannabis.
“People’s lives are at stake. I had three seizures one time, and it was so bad I didn’t wake up for two days, literally,” said Houser. “This is 2018, it’s time to move on. People are sick and people are dying.”
Houser could not share her story with lawmakers during the Criminal Justice committee. By the time medical cannabis bill was called for a hearing, there was about 15 minutes before time ran out. Tempers flared among citizens and Faison.
“The little girl Josie who you saw me sit beside, she’s getting lost in the battle because law enforcement’s concerned with their little stupid thing to be able to arrest people for simple possession. Then, they have asset forfeiture, and they put that stinking money in their pocket. That’s all they care about,” said Faison.
State health officials did have time to talk, telling lawmakers there isn’t enough evidence to support the benefits.
“Our guys from the Tennessee Department of Health up there saying this doesn’t help Parkinson’s, my God, you got to be a special kind of stupid to not realize this helps Parkinson’s,” said Faison.
The Medical Cannabis Act aims to decriminalize marijuana for those who need it for medical reasons and allow its use in a form that cannot be smoked, including cannabis oils, ointments and pills. Some veterans are in support of medical marijuana, including Nashville veteran Matt Walcyzk who served overseas in a war zone and suffers from PTSD. He told News 4 FDA-approved medicine gave him terrible side effects that didn’t help him sleep.
“It got to the point that I found something as simple as eating a brownie as one of the edibles with medical cannabis, eliminated my symptoms without any of the side effects, so that’s what really got me started on this journey,” said Walcyzk, who works with Tennessee Medical Cannabis Trade Association to advance support for the bill.
It was disappointing for those who drove hours to see lawmakers finally vote on an issue that’s been controversial and lengthy.
“I know I don’t appear to be sick, but I can’t drive. I didn’t drive here today. I can’t work. I can’t drive to my kids' ball games. I’m so limited in doing any everyday thing. It’s like a domino effect,” said Houser.
Lawmakers said they will make the bill a priority next week. The bill will need at least six votes from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The bill states that counties can opt out of the law if it was to pass. The counties would also need to pass an ordinance to keep medical marijuana out of their jurisdiction.
House Speaker Beth Harwell is a co-sponsor of the bill. She told News 4 she believes it could be a tool in the fight against opioid abuse.Harwell says other states with medical marijuana programs have seen a decrease in opioid use.
Click here to read the full bill (PDF). Click here to read more about the history of the bill.