Yesterday, newly elected and returning lawmakers convened for the first day of Tennessee's 2019 legislative session. Since the legislature adjourned last year, voters in Utah, Oklahoma, and Missouri enacted medical cannabis laws, bringing the number of medical cannabis states to 32.
But even though 81% of Tennessee voters support medical cannabis, patients either needlessly suffer or risk arrest to find relief from cannabis. Let your lawmakers know you want them to change that.
After your use our automated system to send a quick note to your elected officials, please share this message with other compassionate Tennesseans.
Yesterday, Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Jeremy Faison introduced the Medical Cannabis Only Act of 2018, a bill that would allow Tennessee patients with certain health conditions to access safe, regulated marijuana. Nearly 80 percent of registered Tennessee voters support allowing patients the freedom to access medical marijuana.
If you are a Tennessee resident, please tell your legislators to support the Medical Cannabis Only Act!
Many patients who find relief from marijuana do not respond to prescription medications, and prescription drugs, like opiates, often come with far more serious side effects than marijuana. The majority of states recognize the medical value of marijuana, and it’s time for Tennessee to do the same.
House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally formed a committee to study the potential impacts of legalizing medical marijuana in Tennessee.
The committee will be chaired by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, who has been a staunch advocate for medical marijuana in the Volunteer State.
Speaker Harwell has recently said she is "open" to considering a law allowing medical marijuana in Tennessee and has launched a House task force to fight the state's ongoing opioid crisis.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with medical marijuana laws are associated with a significant reduction in mortality from opioid abuse; these states saw a 25% reduction in opioid overdose deaths, compared to states without such laws.
Around the country, state lawmakers are gearing up for the new legislative sessions, and some are already making marijuana policy reform a top priority.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Melissa Sargent plans to reintroduce legislation that would end Wisconsin’s criminalization of adult marijuana consumers in exchange for taxing and regulating it like alcohol. Her proposal would also permit seriously ill Wisconsinites — both adults and minors — to access medical marijuana.
As Pennsylvania works to implement its new medical marijuana program, lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation that would stop jailing marijuana consumers and instead impose a civil fine. Currently, an individual arrested for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana can still be sentenced to as much as 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Last year, Rep. Ed Gainey introduced HB 2706, a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. He is expected to introduce similar legislation this year.
In Rhode Island, advocates will once again be pushing legislators to end marijuana prohibition after voters in neighboring Massachusetts passed an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November.
Last month, Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) and Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) announced that they are introducing a medical marijuana bill to bring meaningful access to many patients in Tennessee and establish 150 dispensaries throughout the state.
Texas Senator José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) pre-filed SB 269, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, in early December. If passed, this legislation will bring safe and legal access to Texas patients with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, and Crohn’s disease, among others. Advocates expect another bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana to be introduced soon.
The year is still early, and there will likely be many more marijuana policy reform bills introduced in the coming weeks. If you would like to find out what is happening in your state, please click here. MPP will continue to follow marijuana-related legislation in all 50 states and DC as it develops.
Now that most state legislative sessions are over for the year, MPP's Rob Kampia has published a list of the biggest victories in what is already the biggest year on record for marijuana policy reformers!
On July 29, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill removing the threat of arrest for small amounts of marijuana, capping a record year of legislative and administrative marijuana policy reforms throughout the country.
In addition to Illinois, a number of other states enacted laws to reduce marijuana possession penalties. Kansas lowered the maximum jail sentence for first-time possession and reduced second offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Louisiana and Maryland removed criminal penalties for possession of paraphernalia, with the Maryland Legislature overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto. Oklahoma cut the penalties for second marijuana possession offenses in half, and Tennessee reduced a third possession offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, making the maximum penalty less than a year in jail. At the local level, New Orleans and a number of Florida counties passed ordinances that give police the option to issue summons or citations instead of arresting people for low-level possession.
The 2016 Tennessee legislative session, which ended on April 23, saw an incremental improvement in the state’s marijuana policies. Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 1478 into law, which will eliminate the provision that makes a third conviction for possession of marijuana a felony. The law will take effect on July 1, 2016.
This change will reduce the penalty for third-time possession from between one and six years of incarceration to less than one year in jail. In addition, having a misdemeanor rather than a felony record will reduce the collateral consequences associated with the conviction. The bill also increases penalties for repeat DUI offenders and defelonizes third-time possession of all drugs except for heroin.
There is more work to be done, however. The sentences for marijuana possession are still unduly harsh for a drug that is less harmful than alcohol, and the law is enforced in a racially disparate manner. If you are a Tennessee resident, please ask your legislators to consider removing all criminal penalties for marijuana possession in next year’s session.
On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed SB 280 into law. This new law, which was sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, will allow qualified patients to legally possess cannabis oils with no more than 0.9% THC if their doctors recommend it. While this is an improvement to current law, it leaves the vast majority of medical marijuana patients without legal protections for using and possessing the medicine their doctors think is best for them.
Unfortunately, SB 280 also fails to include any regulated means for patients to access cannabis oil in Tennessee. Seriously ill patients or their families would have to travel to another state to get access to medical cannabis preparations. Not only is it illegal to transport CBD between states, it may be illegal to possession cannabis oil in states along the way. This law places patients and loved ones at risk.
While the bill takes a step forward, the law is so incomplete that MPP will still not be counting it as a “medical marijuana state.” If you are a Tennessee resident, ask your legislators to make sure this is only a first step.
Yesterday, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that would largely prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.
This bill is a companion to a historic CARERS Act introduced earlier this month in the Senate with bipartisan support.
The bill would make production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for medical purposes that’s legal under state law legal under federal law, and would make conducting research on marijuana easier, among other things.
On May 16, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a limited medical marijuana bill into law. SB 2531 proposes creating a four-year study on the benefits of cannabidiol, often referred to as “CBD,” a non-psychoactive component of marijuana. Unfortunately, the many limitations placed on the bill by lawmakers mean it is unlikely to result in relief for seriously ill patients in the state. MPP will not be counting Tennessee as a “medical marijuana state.”
The law unrealistically depends on the Drug Enforcement Administration authorizing the cultivation of marijuana within Tennessee for study. The DEA has maintained a monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research in Mississippi, and has steadfastly refused to allow other producers in the past 50 years. Even if it weren’t for that problem, laws that limit patient access to CBD leave most seriously ill patients behind. For a more detailed look at the bill and its many limitations, click here.
Under the bill, Vanderbilt University would conduct the study and Tennessee Tech would theoretically grow marijuana. As in Maryland, we hope Tennessee will move beyond its ineffective medical marijuana law and quickly pass a workable law that will help seriously ill patients in Tennessee.