Republican push to legalize medical cannabis in Tennessee still alive

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State lawmakers in Tennessee this week heard a Republican proposal to legalize medical cannabis in the state, with the legislation appearing to attract bipartisan support.

Tennessee is one of only 11 states without a workable medical cannabis program.

That makes the state an increasing outlier even in the South, where Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi are among the states that have launched medical cannabis industries.

State Sen. Janice Bowling, a Republican, is the lead sponsor of the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act, which the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee considered on Tuesday, according to Nashville TV station WKRN.

The panel has yet to take action.

If passed, the bill would allow patients with one of 30 health conditions to qualify for medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation.

PTSD is specifically included, in a nod to military veterans. Military veterans comprise more than 8% of the state’s population.

Bowling said her proposal came as a part of a general awakening to “the lies that have been spread about medical cannabis through the years and the truth that will help hundreds of thousands if not millions of Tennesseans to live a quality of life not available to them now,” according to WKRN.

Bowling’s measure, Senate Bill 1104, will be heard again in the same committee on Feb. 28.

Separately, a proposal from state Rep. Jesse Chism, a Democrat, to put three nonbinding cannabis-related questions on Tennessee voters’ ballots was shot down on partisan lines, Bowling Green-based WKU Public Media reported.

Chism’s bill would have seen the November 2024 ballot ask voters whether the state should legalize medical cannabis, decriminalize possession of an ounce or less as well as legalize and regulate adult-use sales.

Rep. John Crawford, a Republican, said voters have “ballot fatigue” and already aren’t completing lengthy ballots.