Tennessee: Medical Marijuana Bill Deferred in Committee

April 14, 2010 – Tennessee legislation legalizing the medical use of marijuana by qualified patients was considered by the House Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday.

But the legislation’s projected price tag during tight budget times — and not moral or legal considerations — could bring it down.

After the committee heard testimony, the bill was deferred for one week at the request of its sponsor, state Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis.

She insisted the legislation was all about compassion.

“It is really up to everyone to know this is no longer a fringe issue…” Richardson said while presenting the bill. “Cheech and Chong smoking a bong. … That is not the issue here. … We will eventually pass this bill.”

She said polls are showing 81 percent support for medical marijuana.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, making that state the first in the union to allow for the medical use of marijuana. Since then, 14 more states have enacted similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Still, at the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, making distribution of marijuana a federal offense.

However, in October 2009, the NCSL said President Barack Obama’s administration sent a memo to federal prosecutors encouraging them not to prosecute people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with state laws.

Medical marijuana advocate Bernie Ellis testified the American Medical Association urged a re-evaluation of that Schedule I classification last year.

Under the Tennessee bill, those medically eligible to use marijuana would include cancer and Alzheimer’s patients, HIV and hepatitis C patients, people with chronic pain, and anyone having a medical condition resulting in hospice enrollment.

“We want cannabis available to very ill Tennesseans. … It should be allowed for use for very serious conditions…” said Ellis, who crafted the legislation. “There are 300,000 sick Tennesseans who would thank you (if the legislation passes).”

The bill would also establish a program to allow a patient to receive a prescription for medical marijuana from a practitioner, and the patient would need a program identification card from the Department of Health.

Participating pharmacies would distribute medical marijuana, and the cost to the patient would be about $60 an ounce. Licensed farmers would grow it, Ellis said.

“There would exist a presumption that a qualifying patient is engaged in the medical use of marijuana if the qualifying patient possesses a program identification card and possesses an amount of marijuana that does not exceed a one-month supply,” the text of the legislation said.

Neither patients nor practitioners would be subject to arrest, according to the bill.

The legislation would also require the legislature to appoint a 13-member select oversight committee on medical marijuana.

State Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, pointed out a number of drugs go through controlled studies and still have serious issues.

“People use (marijuana) for the high they get. For me, that’s the problem,” noted Hensley, a physician.

Richardson’s request to defer the bill was to work on an amendment calling for the state Board of Pharmacy to be the administrator of the medical marijuana program.

The state’s Fiscal Review Office estimated that after the program’s second year, at least 10,000 patients would be registered.

But the office also noted the Departments of Health and Agriculture would need additional staff people during the program’s gradual implementation. Its recurring cost was estimated at about $1.5 million.

For more information go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 2562. By Hank Hayes. Source.

One response to “Tennessee: Medical Marijuana Bill Deferred in Committee”

  1. In Sacramento, there is a new law that affects medical marijuana use. Although in many parts of the country all use of marijuana is illegal, in Sacramento and other parts of California it is legal to use marijuana for medical reasons. This means that if you have a painful medical condition such as AIDS, or a condition that requires painful treatments, such as cancer, you can legally use marijuana to get relief from the associated pain and nausea. Of course, you will need to go through the proper channels to make sure that you are within the scope of the law. Following the proper guidelines ensures that you will be able to use marijuana medically in Sacramento without having to worry about getting into trouble with the police.
    In 1996, Californians voted to pass Proposition 215. This proposition is also known as The Compassionate Use Act. It allows people to use, cultivate, and transport marijuana for medical uses. It also exempts people who do so and doctors who prescribe medical marijuana from any legal repercussions related to their actions. This is relevant because the federal government still considers marijuana use to be a crime. There have been several cases where the US government chose to prosecute individuals using medical marijuana in Sacramento (mostly growers of marijuana) who believed that they were acting within the scope of the Compassionate Use Act. If you choose to grow marijuana for medical purposes you will want to be aware that the federal government may choose to pursue you even though the state laws in Sacramento and other parts of California are on your side.
    Following the passage of Proposition 215, marijuana dispensaries started springing up around Sacramento. In order to clarify some questions that came up, the California Senate passed Bill 420. This bill paved the way for a registration program for individuals who wanted to use marijuana for medical purposes. People who want to get a Medical Marijuana ID card (MMID) need to have a note from a doctor saying that their condition would benefit from the use of marijuana. Once a person has that he or she will need to go to the Sacramento County Office of Vital Statistics to pick up an application. The application asks about medical history and whether the applicant believes that marijuana use will help their medical condition. In addition to the doctor’s notes, applicants are required to provide proof of residency, a photo identification, their doctor’s name and contact information, and a non-refundable application fee of $166. Applications can only be turned in with a prior appointment. Appointments are scheduled on Wednesdays or Fridays, and applicants can call 916-875-0994 to schedule one.
    Since the passage of Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420, the use of medical marijuana in Sacramento has become much more commonplace. There are websites dedicated to maintaining a directory of doctors who are willing to write letters of recommendation, and of dispensaries where those possessing an MMID can purchase marijuana for medical use. Overall, surveys show that many citizens of Sacramento favor medical marijuana use so long as there are programs in place to keep people from abusing the system. For those who use medical marijuana for pain relief, these laws have enabled them to find their product in Sacramento without fear of legal repercussions.
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