MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The debate surrounding medical cannabis continues in Tennessee. Lawmakers are studying the potential impacts of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in the state.
A task force consisting of state senators and representatives are taking a harder look at the issue. While research continues before the next legislative session, a family in Maryville is advocating for their beliefs in the plant.
Megan and Jeff Pass have a five-year-old son named Blake, who’s living with autism and epilepsy.
“It’s very heartbreaking. Very heartbreaking. Especially the moments he has those seizures,” said Jeff Pass.Related: Tennessee Democrats vote to support medical marijuana
Blake takes nine prescriptions a day. His family is hoping to change that with medical marijuana.
“We have researched, almost half, if not all those pharmaceutical medications that are man-made, could go away with cannabis oil,” added Jeff Pass.
The special committee formed by members of Tennessee’s legislature has the sole purpose of examining the pros and cons of legalizing medical marijuana.
“We’ve had witnesses that have come in from both out of state and in state that are experts on this and can tell us how other states have approached the medical marijuana,” said State Sen. Dr. Richard Briggs.
Half of the country has some form of medical cannabis. As of this year, 29 states have it legalized, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison wants Tennessee to have one of the strictest medical marijuana bills in America, if it were to pass.
“Hopefully if we can get this through next year, the only thing that would be legal would be the use of the oil. You wouldn’t be able to have edibles, you wouldn’t be able to smoke it,” said Faison.
Two years ago, the legislature allowed cannabis oil treatments for patients in Tennessee. The current law allows for .03 percent of cannabis oil, but you have to get it from outside the state. Another issue, Faison says, is that many people with serious medical conditions need more than that concentration.
“Give them the freedom of using this plant that’s a natural botanical, that God put on this planet, for somebody that they love,” said Faison.
Faison and other supporters want the ability to grow the marijuana plant in the state. Manufacturing only the oil and distributing it at dispensaries.
“This botanical offers life to a lot of sick Tennesseans,” said Faison.
While Faison believes it’s safer than opioids and prescription drugs, Briggs disagrees as a heart surgeon.
“The legislature shouldn’t practice medicine. I’m not sure we have the expertise on our committees to determine whether the medication is safe. What the dosages are. Who do we report side effects, complications, interactions with other medicines for. We have a national organization that does that. It’s called the Food and Drug Administration,” said Briggs.
So far the FDA has not recognized or approved marijuana as a medicine.
The Pass family are strong believers that it will help their son.
“I cannot imagine the chemicals put in his body now, what it’s doing to his insides as opposed to cannabis oil which is a plant,” said Jeff Pass.
“If it were to pass, we would definitely try him on it,” added Megan Pass.
The state task force has one more meeting to examine the pros and cons of legalizing medical marijuana. At the beginning of the year, several members plan to give a recommendation to the general assembly and propose a new medical marijuana bill in the legislature.
A recent poll done in may by Vanderbilt University found 47 percent of those surveyed support medical marijuana in Tennessee.Contact your state lawmakers:
- Committee Members:
Co-Chairman Representative Faison: email@example.com ; Phone (615) 741-6871
Co-Chairman Senator Dickerson: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Phone: (615) 741-6679
Raumesh Akbari: email@example.com ; Phone: (615) 741-3830
Sheila Butt: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Phone: (615) 741-3005
Bob Ramsey: email@example.com ; Phone: (615) 741-3560
Sam Whitson: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Phone: (615) 741-1864
Richard Briggs: email@example.com ; Phone: (615) 741-1766
Rusty Crowe: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Phone: (615) 741-2468
Joey Hensley: email@example.com ; Phone: (615) 741-3100
Jeff Yarbro: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Phone: (615) 741-3291
A poll on Facebook overwhelmingly favored legalization of medical marijuana.