Last month, Republican House Speaker and candidate for Governor Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) announced her support for consideration of legalizing marijuana for some medicinal uses in Tennessee. Now, she and Lt. Governor Randy McNally have established a legislative committee to study and report on the subject.
The Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis is “authorized and directed to study, evaluate, analyze and undertake a comprehensive review regarding whether the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes is in the best interest of the state.” The committee will be chaired by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby. It also will include Reps. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia; Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville; Sam Whitson, R-Franklin; Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis; and Sens. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville; Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City; Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald; and Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville.
Rep. Faison has said that he expects the medical marijuana issue to be among the top 5 issues on voters minds in the 2018 race for Governor. “Obviously we see jobs and infrastructure as probably going to be number one, and abortion and gun rights are way up there when it comes to Republican values,” Faison said. “I do see a lot of sick people making this issue a top five issue for candidates.”
At least one candidate for Governor remains skeptical of the claims being made by those advocating legalization of marijuana in Tennessee for alleged medical purposes. Former State Senator Mae Beavers, who resigned from the legislature last month to devote her focus on the Governor’s race says those pushing for marijuana legalization in Tennessee for “medical” purposes have a lot of questions to answer.
“I hope the Legislature won’t be ‘duped’ into supporting ‘dope’ based on a smokescreen of ‘medical’ concern. As Governor I certainly won’t be fooled by a Trojan Horse campaign, no matter how sincere some of those who are seeking medical treatment may be,” Beavers says.
“At this point Federal law enforcement agencies, the FDA and Congress have refused to embrace legalization of marijuana in recreational or medicinal form,” Beavers points out. “Based upon current federal drug laws regarding marijuana, promoting currently illegal drugs would not be a priority for a Beavers Administration.”
But Beavers’ concerns go beyond the fact that marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law. “Proponents of medical marijuana consistently ignore or deny the fact that the same medical doctors who recklessly dispense prescriptions for the opioids that are fueling an opioids crisis in Tennessee are the same ones we would expect to properly regulate the dispensing of medical marijuana. I believe we should deal with one drug distribution crisis before we proceed to create another,” Beavers notes.
Beavers also says there is substantial evidence that marijuana use is a so-called “gateway” that leads to other and more dangerous drug use. However, she is equally concerned that the promotion of “medical” marijuana is simply a means to legalize recreational marijuana. “If “medical” marijuana proponents were seriously concerned about patients then they wouldn’t actively resist limiting any medical legalization to ONLY those forms of marijuana with very low levels of THC, which do not produce the “high” that recreational users desire. It is a bait and switch scheme to use the emotional appeal of medical treatment to cover up the real goal of recreational use, Beavers says.
If the proponents of “medical” marijuana will get serious about legitimate medical applications for marijuana there may be a basis to discuss legitimate medical usage, according to Beavers. But at this point, she notes, the real intent of those advocating to legalize recreational use is clear, both from the effort to include high THC marijuana as “medicinal” as well as the groups who are supporting (publicly and secretively) the campaign to promote medical marijuana in Tennessee.