NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – One Tennessee legislator will be looking to move forward and bring better pain management and treatment to all Tennesseans when the legislature convenes in January.
State Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), told News 2 she intends to bring forth her legislation allowing for the cultivation, sale, and use of medical marijuana at the next legislative session.
Bowling has worked with multiple lawmakers in the past to try to get medical cannabis bills passed, but none have made it out of committee over the years. The last bill never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last session. It’s something Bowling wants to change in order to allow Tennesseans more control over their medical decisions.
“We need to have people have more input in their medical treatment in Tennessee,” Bowling said of her efforts to move the needle on medical marijuana legalization in the Volunteer State. “When I look at medical cannabis, with 38 states already having legalized [it], I think it’s very important for Tennessee to step up and make its own legal program.”
While Tennessee law currently allows for CBD and minimal THC products such as Delta 8, marijuana usage is still prohibited. In more recent years, state lawmakers have debated the costs and benefits of potentially allowing for medical or recreational marijuana legalization, but no formal decisions have ever been made on the issue.
News 2’s Chris O’Brien spoke with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on the issue to get a sense of where the legalization effort was in the state. While there is some bipartisan support for medical marijuana bills like Bowling’s, the sense on Capitol Hill is that any legalization would face heavy opposition.
Bowling, however, says medical cannabis wouldn’t be the boogeyman some make it out to be.
“Marijuana has never produced an overdose death,” she said, citing federal statistics on the ongoing opioid epidemic nationwide.
She further said she had support from multiple groups, including veterans seeking treatment options for PTSD.
“The veterans of Tennessee fully support my bill because many of them with PTSD – the cure is almost worse than the condition, because in Tennessee they’re put on opioids, and they don’t want to be addicted to opioids,” she said.
Bowling’s bill would encompass more than 30 different health conditions that would be allowed to be treated with medical cannabis, from cancers, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, fibromyalgia, or even certain immune conditions like lupus or multiple sclerosis.
The bill Bowling introduced in years past has also been picked up by other states, like Alabama, Bowling told News 2.
“Last year I was invited to Alabama when the governor signed my medical bill into law when it was passed,” she said. “The doctor of neurology at UAB had seen my bill online. He knew from experience from trying medical cannabis on [his] patients that it was preferable over the treatments that were available.”
Bowling’s bill outlines a process for beginning a medical cannabis commission made up of experts appointed by the governor, the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate; a licensing procedure for growers and cultivators; inspection and enforcement procedures; local municipal bans; setting up a tax rate and the creation of a medical cannabis fund for research purposes and support of law enforcement; develops a tracking system for medical cannabis sales; and lists the qualifying conditions that can be treated with the medical marijuana.
Bowling told News 2 she wants to see the fully intra-state program because it would allow Tennessee to have complete oversight of its own program from “seed to sale.”
“All from seed to sale would be regulated by the state of Tennessee,” she said. “You’d know it’s a safe and affordable product.”
Bowling added the last fiscal estimate her bill had carried a $24 million revenue for the Volunteer State, though she said some experts have told her that was likely a conservative figure.
The 113th General Assembly will convene Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023.